LVU accepted into US Soccer Academy
Greg Ramos had been applying since 2008 to get Lehigh Valley United acceptance into U.S. Soccer's development academy.
On April 1, the region's top youth soccer club finally became a member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the U-14 age group of players born in 2000 and 2001.
For Ramos, the Executive Director of Soccer Operations at LVU, the news came on April Fools Day, but he was pretty sure it wasn't a joke when he got the call.
"I was in contact with U.S. Soccer for a couple weeks before that," he said of the news on the 1st, "but there's always a little piece inside of you that makes you wonder if it was a joke that day. "Thankfully, it wasn't and we've been able to accomplish a major goal for our club by being selected."
The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an every day environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players.
The Academy's philosophy is based on increased training, fewer total games and more competitive games. The U-14 age group at LVU will consist of 18 players, who will be selected for the team and won't have to pay-to-play, like most youth club models.
Their season will be a 10-month calendar beginning this September, with practices ranging three to four times a week, along with a contest on the weekend against some of the best youth programs in the country, playing the likes of Major League Soccer's (MLS) U-14 academies.
The Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams.
Each Academy team is evaluated by a member of the men's scouting network at least 10 times each year and each Academy club receives two formal evaluations in over 100 categories each year from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff.
The overall exposure the players will get, as well as the top-notch competition they'll see on a weekly basis, is a major caveat for the Lehigh Valley.
"This goes back to my youth soccer career where I always needed to travel to the Philadelphia area to get what I needed," Ramos said. "This allows players to stay local. It's a stamp of approval from U.S. Soccer. It takes travel time away from players and allows them to develop locally. Another goal of the club is to drive more attention to the sport.
"We want to bring soccer along in the Lehigh Valley and show all the young aspiring athletes in the area that this is club that they can achieve their highest potential."
LVU was one of four clubs across the country selected for the development academy and is now one of four clubs in Pennsylvania to be apart of the model, joining PA Classics, Continental and the Philadelphia Union (MLS) in its ranks.
Acceptance this year is phase one of hopefully bigger things to come for LVU, as they hope to add more age groups in the academy, once they get evaluated after year one.
"We worked with PA Classics for a day to show U.S. Soccer what our young players can do," said Ramos, who had players from 9-13 years old attend a rehearsal session that helped LVU become apart of the academy system. "That gave us an opportunity to demonstrate what type of players we had going into U-14, as well as what we had coming up behind them. Hopefully, we'll add some more age groups in the future."
As of now, tryouts for the academy team will begin on April 22 and run through June. For more information regarding tryouts, visit www.lehighvalleyunited.com.