Skip to content

Philadelphia plan to blaze a trail for MLS academies

May 10, 2013, 9:14 AM EDT

Houston Dynamo v Philadelphia Union - 1st Leg Getty Images

The Philadelphia Union’s plans for future development are getting plenty of press this morning.

And those plans rely on youth, heavily.

Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz and other high-ranking officials at the MLS club are thinking big in terms of youth development and using homegrown talent in their future, as they spoke to local press about the plans.

“Our plan is to develop a college-prep program that would provide players an opportunity to pursue their goals on and off the field — and it’ll be like no other,” said Richard Graham, part owner of the Union and a major benefactor to the Union Academy setup.

That goal is achievable and given the fact that the Philadelphia area is one of the hotbeds of youth soccer in the US, they could prove very fruitful.

It all ties in with the Union opening up their Development Academy for the 2013-14 season.

But is the model sustainable? What if the Union continue to throw plenty of cash into youth development and it doesn’t yield results? That’s the last though on head coach John Hackworth’s mind. “We’re in a business that spends millions of dollars in player acquisition,” Hackworth said. “To me it makes so much more sense to grow that player within your area, to teach him the philosophies and the style so that, when they get here — and it’s a long, long path, and very few get here — they’re ready and (will) be so much more prepared for it.”

While the CEO is harbouring dreams of one day having the enitre starting lineup made up of players from the Philadelphia area. “My dream someday is to field a starting XI from this region, with kids that grew up in this town,” Sakiewicz said. “With 35,000 boys in this area between eight and 18, that’s very possible. That’s more boys than Chelsea has to look at.”

So this all sounds great. It really does. But is it achievable?

There are so many factors that go into developing and nurturing young talented soccer stars who will go on to make it big in the future. The Union have incredible staff on board to help with their aim, former Glasgow Rangers academy technical director Tommy Wilson fronts the Union’s academy, while former US youth national team coaches and top college coaches now run teams at every age group of the Union’s academy.

Not to mention head coach Hackworth is the former US U-17 head coach and director of the US Soccer federation’s Bradenton academy.

But sometimes, despite having all these great coaches and developing wonderful facilities, a little bit of luck comes in to the equation. At Manchester United, when Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt all arrived on the scene at the same time, it was an anomaly. Something that couldn’t be explained. How did six future international soccer players just turn up? And look at the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi at Barcelona’s academy. United and Barca poured plenty of resources into their youth setup, and the Union are looking to do the same.

However there is a big gamble with building the whole structure of the club on youth development. What if you don’t get lucky and other external factors play a part in the development of your players, then what do you have to show for it?

But if any club in MLS are likely to succeed with ambitious academy plans, it is the Philadelphia Union.

Latest Posts
  1. The great Southampton fire sale continues. Why is this happening?

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    Southampton home shirt

    After selling over $175 million of talent so far this summer, what are Saints playing at?

  2. US striker Terrence Boyd out injured after tearing ACL

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-RAPID WIEN-KRC GENK Getty Images

    Boyd out after injury in Queens Park Rangers friendly.

  3. Lionel Messi’s tax fraud case will go ahead

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Messi AP

    He may be one of the best soccer players the planet has ever seen, but Messi is not above the law.

  4. Arsenal confirm $27 million signing of Calum Chambers

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Source: Arsenal FC Source: Arsenal FC

    Arsenal splash the cash to sign 19-year-old Southampton academy graduate.

  5. Harry Redknapp says Loic Remy failing Liverpool medical is “not possible”

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers' Remy reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton in Liverpool Reuters

    Did Remy fail a medical at Liverpool? ‘Arry isn’t buying it.

  6. British politicians call for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    Vladimir Putin AP

    Clegg, Downing Street, discuss Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.

  7. Manchester City host #AskJesus (Navas) Twitter chat, hilarious comments ensue

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Navas Getty Images

    If you use the hashtag #AskJesus, expect to get results like this.

  8. Atletico Madrid sign French striker Antoine Griezmann

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT

    Antoine Griezmann

    Atletico add Griezmann to partner Mandzukic in new-look attack.

  9. Arsene Wenger taking $27 million “gamble” on teenager Calum Chambers

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT

    calum_chambers Getty Images

    Arsenal may be taking a “gamble” but it certainly paid off the last two times they bought teenagers from Southampton.

  10. Liverpool plays to compact 1-0 win over Olympiacos

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT

    LiverpoolOlympiacos AP

    Liverpool looks focused on improving its shape heading into the upcoming Premier League season.

  11. MLS Roundup: Dallas pulls out heroic draw, Valeri gives Timbers late win

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:17 PM EDT

    Fernandez Getty Images

    Raul Fernandez held Vancouver to a draw while Portland won a 3-2 barnburner with Montreal.

  12. Petr Cech says he won’t back down at Chelsea anytime soon

    Jul 27, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT

    Cech Getty Images

    With Thibaut Courtois hot on his trail, Petr Cech isn’t about to let the youngster’s hype get in the way of his 11-year Chelsea career.

  13. VIDEO: Mario Balotelli takes amazing selfie with two pitch invaders

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    Source, Twitter: @NA_B27 Source, Twitter: @NA_B27

    AC Milan got hosed, but Mario Balotelli had some fun as a second-half substitute.

  14. Martinez tells Everton fans “of course we’ll get” Lukaku

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:26 PM EDT

    MartinezLukaku Getty Images

    It may have been in jest, but Roberto Martinez has set rumors alight.

  15. Teams confirm Dejan Lovren completes transfer from Southampton to Liverpool

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    Lovren Getty Images

    Lovern becomes the third Southampton player to move to Liverpool this summer.

  16. Four thoughts from Manchester City vs. AC Milan (including Balotelli’s on-field selfie!)

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    20140727-181926.jpg

    AC Milan got thumped for the second straight US preseason friendly. What does it mean?

  17. Premier League return for Van der Vaart? His old manager Redknapp hopes so

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    VanderVaart AP

    Having played under Redknapp for 2 years at Spurs, the QPR boss wants him back.

  18. Jan Vertonghen says Spurs have offered him a new 5-year contract

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    Vertonghen Getty Images

    With a good World Cup, Spurs has affirmed the importance of Jan Vertonghen’s presence to their back line.