Youth development is one of the most interesting and divisive topics in American soccer. Coaches and scouts are constantly scouring the country for the next Lionel Messi or even the next Landon Donovan.
And that conversation moved back to the forefront once again last week when MLSsoccer.com released it's 24 Under 24. The list, voted on by soccer media members in North America is a comprehensive list of the top 24 players in MLS under the age of 24. Sporting KC defender Erik Palmer-Brown came in at No. 24 in his first appearance on the list.
So what is Sporting Kansas City's philosophy when it comes to youth development? During a recent trip to New York, Sporting KC assistant technical director Mike Jacobs (pictured, left) sat down with MLSsoccer.com editor Andrew Wiebe for an ExtraTime Radio interview to offer his perspective on youth development and how it relates to Sporting KC. Jacobs covered a variety of topics including Major League Soccer's connection with USL, the current state of college soccer and Sporting KC's goals for youth development. Listen to the full interview below starting at 24:45.
Fellow Homegrown Players and U.S. youth national team products Erik Palmer-Brown and Zach Pfeffer squared off in an EA Sports FIFA real-life skils challenge during MLS All-Star Week in July, and today that footage was released on MLSsoccer.com. The eight-episode series began Monday when Sporting Kansas City's Benny Feilhaber went head-to-head with his former teammate Kei Kamara. Fans can watch each video in the series on the MLS YouTube channel and at MLSsoccer.com/Video.
FIFA16 launches Sept. 22 in North America and will be available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows and more. The latest installment of the best-selling video game series will feature the U.S. Women's National Team and CenturyLink Field for the first time.
MLSsoccer.com will unveil this year's edition of "24 Under 24" a week from today for the sixth annual recognition of the top young players in Major League Soccer. The rankings are determined by a panel of soccer media members across the United States and Canada based on five criteria:
Technical (first touch, dribbling, shooting, heading, etc.)
Soccer IQ (positioning, reading game, situational understanding, tactical awareness, etc.)
Physical Attributes (balance, agility, speed, endurance, strength, vertical leap, etc.)
Personality (attitude, marketability, media savviness, charisma, intangibles, etc.)
Potential (improvability, ceiling, national team potential, potential future transfer value, etc.)
C.J. Sapong (#2 in 2012, #15 in 2011)
Teal Bunbury (#5 in 2011, #17 in 2010, #20 in 2012)
Ryan Smith (#12 in 2010)
Photo courtesy of @USSoccer_YNT on Twitter
Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown started for the United States Under-20 Men's National Team on Monday in a 2-0 victory over Israel at the 2015 Stevan Vilotic Tournament in Serbia. Palmer-Brown, who wore the captain's armband for the United States, was the only player to start all three matches for the U.S. U-20's at the competition.
The U.S. opened the tournament with back-to-back losses against the last two FIFA U-20 World Cup champions, falling 3-1 to Serbia on Thursday and 6-1 to France on Friday. Led by head coach Tab Ramos, the U-20's will next participate in the Four Nations Tournament held in Germany in October.
Erik Palmer-Brown captained the U.S. U-20's today against France (Courtesy of @USSoccer_YNT)
For the second straight day in Serbia, Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown started for the United States Under-20 Men's National Team in the 2015 Stevan Vilotic Tournament. The U.S. U-20's dropped a 6-1 decision to France, which won the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and will now play Israel in the competition's fifth-place match on Monday.
Sporting Kansas City homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown started and played 45 minutes for the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team on Thursday in the opening game of the 2015 Stevan Vilotic Tournament at Subotica City Stadium in Subotica, Serbia. The US U-20's fell 3-1 to the hosts Serbia, who won the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup earlier this summer.
The competition, held in honor of former Yugoslavia manager Stevan Cele Vilotic, features six teams in its 22nd edition with Israel, Ukraine, Montenegro and France rounding out the field. The United States will next face France on Friday in Senta, Serbia to set up a final placement match on Monday.
Palmer-Brown, 18, has appeared in nine matches for Sporting Kansas City across all competition since signing as a Homegrown Player in August 2013. He made his MLS debut in May 2014, becoming the youngest player to appear in an MLS match in club history.
The Lee’s Summit, Missouri native attended the prestigious U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida and has started in the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game each of the last two years.
On July 26, the Sporting KC Academy U-15's claimed the U.S. Youth Soccer Cup with a 3-1 win over Fewster FC (Maryland) in the final of the 2015 US Youth Soccer National Championships at Mohawk Soccer Complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Sporting KC U15's became the first boys team from Kansas at any age level to be crowned USYS national champions in the competition's 80-year history.
U.S. Youth Soccer was there to profile the journey and discuss the club's vertical integration between the first team and academy program. Fast forward to 10:05 for the beginning of the piece on Sporting KC.
Hardware is not exclusive to the Sporting KC first team and the Sporting KC Academy is ready to add another trophy of their own to the case.
The Sporting KC U-14s will square off against Des Moines Menace Red at 10 a.m. CT in the US Youth Soccer Region II U-15 championship in Fox Cities, Wis. The match will be broadcast free in high definition.
The Sporting KC Academy U-14's are looking to defend their title after winning the US Youth Soccer Region II Championship in 2014. The winner of today's match will punch their ticket to the 2015 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Tulsa, Okla.
In each of my affiliate visits thus far, I have communicated a distinct message to the coaches and board of directors: The pathway to the pros. This message represents a topic that means a great deal to me.
Growing up, my path to the pros was not only unclear, but also almost non-existent. Players in today’s culture have the opportunity to associate themselves with an MLS club not only locally, but regionally as well as nationally.
Our Academy Affiliate program offers this clear pathway and as our 2015 Academy tryouts have concluded, an astounding 197 players -- out of approximately 750 total trialists -- were represented from 10 different Academy Affiliate teams. Of those 197 players, 32 players were added to the Sporting KC Academy teams from the U12, U13, U14, U16 and U18 age groups.
The U12 age group is a tremendous indicator of the impact of our Academy Affiliate program. For example:
- Sixty-two out of 150 players trying out came from our Affiliate program
- Eight of our affiliates across the nation were represented
- Fifteen out of 22 players, or roughly 70%, of players on the U12’s were developed within the affiliate program before making the U12 Academy team
This is a very exciting and clear indicator that our affiliate system is working and we are headed in an extremely positive direction. Families are moving to Kansas City to accommodate this prestigious accomplishment, distinctly demonstrating the change in the culture of youth soccer.
A special thank you to all of our Academy technical staff who poured in countless hours providing a competitive environment for which the enormous talent pool could compete in. Also, congratulations to all of the players who made Academy rosters or trials.
Sporting Blue Valley, Sporting Lincoln, Sporting Kaw Valley, Sporting Lee's Summit and Omaha FC are all represented in the Academy rosters and this should further encourage affiliate clubs’ participation in related experiences.
More information regarding Academy tryouts and rosters can be found here.