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Cedar Stars Academy Bergen and Cedar Stars Academy Monmouth announce their membership in MLS's elite player development platform.

New Jersey
Wednesday May 13th, 2020

Major League Soccer today announced 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.

CLICK HERE for a full list of Founding Member clubs
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.

The platform will operate with a groundbreaking governance structure that promotes collaboration, innovation and input across all areas of the soccer landscape. Within the structure, technical working groups will provide recommendations on the platform’s strategic objectives and standards, outline competition guidelines and formats, as well as introduce platform programming. By unifying the elite player development landscape and creating a collaborative structure, the new platform will accelerate and enhance player development in North America.

With a focus on maximizing each player’s potential, the new development platform will not only provide high-level, year-round competition for players, but will provide important programming, education and innovation in the key areas of player development:




mls map

“There is strong positive momentum and excitement among MLS club academies and elite academy clubs to co-create a platform that will deliver an unparalleled experience for the nation’s top players and clubs,”

said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development.


“The development of professional and elite players requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, beyond just the competition format, and we are having daily conversations with academy clubs across the country who are committed to building that environment with us.”

Since launching the MLS club academy initiative in 2007, Major League Soccer has demonstrated unprecedented commitment to the development of top level professional players in the United States and Canada, including an investment of more than $70 million last season alone. This investment has produced more than 250 homegrown players that have become professional and national team players, including recent standout players such as Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas, Solar Soccer Club), James Sands (New York City FC academy, New York Soccer Club) and Matt Real (Philadelphia Union, FC Delco).

The elite academy clubs that are Founding Members of the new platform have also been leaders in the development of players for college, MLS and the national teams.  Combined, MLS Academies and the elite academies joining the platform have produced more than 90% of the U.S. Youth National Team players in the last year, making the new platform the top destination for the best young players in North America.
With the launch of this new platform, MLS and the elite academy clubs will not only continue to develop world class players but will create a world class soccer development culture that supports and inspires elite players throughout the countries.

"Cedar Stars Academy - Bergen is very excited to be part of the elite youth platform. This platform will allow us to compete at the highest level of youth soccer within the United States. We strive for competition for our players and this league will undoubtedly give us that. We are proud to be a founding member and look forward to collaborating with other like-minded clubs to develop the next crop of professional and collegiate players."

Anthony Nixon - Academy Director

"Cedar Stars Academy – Monmouth is very excited to be part of MLS’s elite youth development platform as a founding member.  The league will provide year round competition against high level clubs which will create the ideal environment for our players to develop and give them the chance to fulfill their potential through soccer."

Phil Swenda - Academy Director Monmouth Boys


How does this new competition format differ from the previous DA structure?

- This platform will take on an innovative governance structure which will include collaboration from leaders of Founding Member clubs.
- Collaboration from a wide swath of soccer leaders across North America will offer a unique approach
with consideration to soccer communities with differing needs respective to their regions.
- This collaboration will establish a better working relationship for all key constituencies dedicated to furthering
domestic player development.

Will clubs that previously did not participate in the DA be allowed to join and operate under this new structure?
- An application process will be set up for clubs that wish to participate in the future.
- All applying clubs will be subject to meeting requirements for admission to participate in the platform.

Will girls clubs that were previously included in the former USSDA competition be included in this new platform?
- The Founding Member Clubs value opportunity for all youth players and will provide additional opportunities for elite girls players to showcase their skills for pro and college scouts.
- The exact details surrounding these opportunities will be announced at a later date.

Will elite academy clubs still participate in a pay-to-play structure under this new competition format?
- MLS collaboration on this platform with elite academies will not impact their business model.
- In fact, MLS is committing additional resources to helping long-term financial sustainability of elite academy clubs in order to increase access and remove barriers for elite players.

How is this technical leadership group determined and who is leading the charge here?
- MLS will be working with our Founding Members in the coming weeks to determine the working group areas for the platform.
- Additionally, MLS, the elite youth academies and a youth development advisory committee will provide
input into those working areas.

What is the financial motivation for MLS to take over in the youth development space?
- MLS has a stated goal of being one of the top leagues in the world. To do that, we need to improve the quality of the domestic player pool.
- Our platform will ensure that everyone who is committed to elevating the quality of the player pool and the game as a whole in this country will be able to contribute to that effort.  


As the Major League Soccer’s elite player development platform progresses and develops, CSA will ensure updated information will be provided as it becomes available through CSA social media and CSA webiste.

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