In a September interview with FiftyFive.One, newly named United Development Academy director Tim Carter said he wanted the team’s program to be “inclusive and not exclusive.” Carter also said he was looking for a collaborative process with the National Sports Center, Minnesota Youth Soccer Association (MYSA), and youth clubs throughout the state. “We don’t want to be a competitor in the market,” said Carter. He also said it was “important to take time and listen to the stakeholders.”
Carter has now met with over 50 club directors of coaching throughout the state, according to a source. Some of those who have met with Loons’ DA director have called him “extremely thorough.”
Carter has a solid background in youth development with US Soccer. Prominently, he started the Shattuck-St.Mary’s academy program in 2004. The program was accepted into the USSF DA in 2010 along with the Minnesota Thunder Academy.
United will enter the U-13 and U-14 age groups in their academy starting this fall. The DA schedules are made to allow all age groups from a team to travel together for matches.
“We don’t want to be a competitor in the market. It’s important to take time and listen to the stakeholders.”
MNUFC DA Director Tim Carter
Club spokesperson Eric Durkee did not confirm the Rochester news but instead explained that the older DA teams and the USL team will be more of a “slow burn.”
“We’ve got a lot to figure out right now between the upcoming MLS season and the stadium,” said Durkee. “Eventually we will be bringing in the USL team as well. As a club, we just have to prioritize in our first year.”
Originally Minnesota United had discussed Rochester, Minn. as a location for their USL reserve affiliate. Then there was some focus on having a team in Wisconsin. A source told FiftyFive.One that talk had shifted once again to Rochester as a destination where the team would play games.
Speculatively, Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) has facilities that could serve the reserve team well. Currently, the stadium seats 5,000 fans, just 500 under the USSF D2 standards. This would be required due to USL getting sanctioned to participate as a D II league. The stadium is covered during the winter months, making it the second largest sports dome in the state with a field size of 86-by-133 yards. It seats 1,080 within the dome.
The stadium was the home of the Minnesota Thunder’s Premier Development League team for the two years of its existence (2009 and 2010).
UCR Regional Sports Center is also on the RCTC campus. It includes an indoor field house, which is a 44,000 square foot facility.
MLS requires its teams to have a Development Academy program, which is a very expensive endeavor. A recent study by the USSF DA showed teams from areas like Minnesota at a distinct disadvantage. This is caused not only by travel distance to other DA clubs but the need for indoor winter training and playing facilities.
The DA season is 10 months of the year, starting in September and finishing in June or July. Each team plays one home and one away game with the other teams in their division. They also play a number of games with teams outside of their division.
The philosophy of the USSF DA is to play fewer games, do more training and play higher quality opponents.
Leagues are made up of 10 divisions and three conferences. U-14 teams participate in the DA Fall Regional Showcases and Summer National Showcase, but there is no postseason play for age groups below U-15/16. The USSF DA has 150 total clubs, comprised of teams across five age groups: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15/16, and U-17/18.
Another feature of the DA is a thorough scouting system. A member of the U.S. Soccer Scouting Network looks in on each Academy club, with every player evaluated at least 10 times per year. When players participate in showcases, the sidelines are often filled with scouts from pro teams and colleges. Each of those scouts is provided complete file to reference for every player on the roster, from an extensive online database profile created for every DA player.
Questions still remain for the Minnesota Thunder Academy DA program when United launches their program for all ages. What it will look like, what their focus will be, and how they will handle things like scouting and scholarships are still to be determined.
While MTA’s girls’ program has continued to remain strong and financially stable, the boys’ program has seen financial difficulties in recent years with the high costs of running a DA. Sources report that MTA’s boys’ program has recently been in discussions with Rev Soccer Club to form a merger. No one knows if the USSF will allow MTA to continue their DA program or pull the plug.
Local soccer coaches aware of the rigors of the DA program have previously expressed concern that there isn’t enough talent in the region to support two DA programs. Minnesota also has the Shattuck-St. Mary’s DA program. However, most if not all their talent comes from outside the state.
With the draw of an MLS team guiding United’s DA programs, it would be a difficult task for MTA to attract the highest caliber players in Minnesota.