U.S. Soccer will start a girls' Development Academy in 2017, according to Soccer Wire. The youth development system, which has proven successful for boys, will be expanded to include girls and could be announced as soon as next month.
The Development Academy is an organization of the country's top youth clubs, which sets standards and a setup to help develop professional player and national teamers. But while it has helped the U.S. expand their pool of excellent boys prospects, an equivalent for the girls does not yet exist.
The top girls development system is the Elite Clubs National League, which was launched in 2009. It is independent from U.S. Soccer, although it does work with the national team coaches to help and is sponsored by Nike, just like the federation. The establishment of a Development Academy will probably relegated the ECNL to a second division-like status.
It will be interesting to see how the girls' Development Academy is setup compared to the boys, as well as what type of funding it receives. The startup years will also be fascinating, as the system gets launched and potentially creates a period of less than ideal development for girls. While the Development Academy tries to find its footing, the ECNL, which has spent years establishing itself, will take a backseat and potentially leave no development system working at the highest levels. But in the end, the federation is taking a greater hand in developing young girls and, theoretically, that should come with increased funding and higher level coaching.
For now, the effects of the Development Academy is simply speculation, but this will change the way the U.S. develops girls for decades to come. It would be a major move for U.S. Soccer, and hopefully one they get right.