Peter Vermes: MLS player development platform "will set the path for decades to come"

Major League Soccer announced today that 65 former U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs will join the League’s existing club academies to create a partnership that will transform youth player development in the United States and Canada.

The 65 youth clubs will join the MLS academies as Founding Members of MLS’ elite player development platform. The new platform, which will include more than 8,000 players throughout the U.S. and Canada, will consist of elite year-round competition, as well as player identification initiatives, coaching education opportunities, and additional programming to create the premier player development environment.

In conjunction with the announcement, Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes was involved in a national conference call with media alongside Fred Lipka, MLS Vice President and Technical Director of Player Development, among others. Vermes’ remarks are below.

On his overall thoughts of today's announcement...

“For so many years now, MLS has been investing the most (in youth development). And I don’t mean just monetarily—people, resources, facilities. They have been investing a tremendous amount into this space of player development. It only makes sense that when U.S. Soccer decided to dissolve the Development Academy for MLS to step in and be the leaders of this space. There’s a lot of good things that U.S. Soccer did and there’s some things we can for sure improve on.

“I think Fred (Lipka) and everyone at the league level has done a tremendous job putting together a meaningful competition and collaborative effort with the non-MLS academy clubs to pull this together in a short period of time. Obviously there’s still a lot of work to be done. But It’s exciting for soccer and a great time to be taking on this opportunity as we move into this new era of player development in our country. I’m very excited for it.

On the growth of soccer in the U.S. and how the new youth platform will improve player development...

“Soccer continues to evolve at an accelerated pace in this country. Many times we're extremely critical of ourselves and we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things that we have achieved along the way. If you just take a look at MLS over the last 25 years, I was a player the first year it started. If I look at how it was 25 years ago and what it is now, there’s no absolutely no comparison. The level of play on the field, the number of teams in the league, the ownership groups we have across the board, the individual stadiums and facilities, the quality of play on the field—it just continues to grow.

“Then you look at what’s been done with the academies and how they’ve grown, especially over the last five years. It’s been tremendous and unprecedented in so many ways. We have to continue to get better in the space of player development. I do believe that we continue to improve. As a country, we all have to do a better job in this space. We’re making strides, just with the announcement today, and I believe with more announcements to come down the pike here. There will be better ways to create more high-quality players as we move forward. I also think it’s not always just about developing a player. There are going to be players that come through this system, whether it’s in the non-MLS academy side or the MLS academy side, that are going to go a different route. Some will go to college and make their way to an MLS team that way. Part of it also could be that some of them become lifelong fans of soccer, which would be a part of our game for years to come.

“This collaborative effort that is being created is one that I believe will set the path for decades to come, first in securing a supply chain of players to the first teams of MLS clubs, but also for every level thereunder. I’m excited to see how it progresses and see the steps we’re taking. I don’t believe Major League Soccer would be embarking on this adventure that they’re announcing today without having a strong focus within their MLS academies and continuing their support and focus on player development.”