USA to start U-21 national team program

Jurgen Klinsmann's latest change to U.S. youth development has the green light -- an U-21 team.

The United States is growing their youth program. Frustrated with their lack of a program after the age of 20, they are adding a U-21 team to their youth program, according to Brian Sciaretta. The new age group will eventually serve as preparation for the Olympics, with the current U-21's being eligible for the 2016 Games.

To have U-21, U-22 and U-23 teams is common in Europe, where players are considered "youth" through their Olympic year. That isn't the case in CONCACAF, where teams only compete through the U-20's, with the exception of hastily put together Olympic teams.

Jurgen Klinsmann has made youth development a priority for the U.S. and has spoken before to the importance to keep players in the program past the age of 20. This new team will do just that.

The obstacle for the U.S. will be getting players to join them with any regularity because many 21-23 year olds are important members of their clubs, and finding competition for the team. They will have to travel to Europe for most of their good competition, where they could play against other international U-21, U-22 or U-23 teams as well as club teams at those age levels. They will also get to play some Mexican club teams, which have reserve teams full of older youth players, as well as USL or MLS reserve teams. The Pan American Games will probably be their biggest non-Olympics-related competition.

The first U.S. U-21 camp will take place next month at the StubHub Center. It is still unclear who will coach the team, but this is still a major development in U.S. youth development, even if only in the investment it requires. As for how necessary and successful, we'll find out.

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