Carter, who grew up in Maine, has been involved with coaching for 40 years. He started out in the 1970s as an assistant coach at two different colleges before becoming head coach at Eckerd College. At the same time, he acquired his USSF A License. In the following years, he went on to get coaching licenses from England’s FA and the Netherlands KNVB. He acquired a Union of European Football Trainers Diploma, US Soccer National Instructors license, and most recently his US Soccer Academy Director License.
During that same time period, he was an assistant at Duke, a state coach at Illinois Youth Soccer Association, Illinois State University coach, and worked as both a National Staff coach and Director of Youth Development for US Soccer working on Project 2010. He also worked for the Chicago Fire in player development, was the Pittsburgh Riverhounds head coach, and the Minnesota Thunder assistant coach under Buzz Lagos.
More recently, Carter was recruited to start a soccer academy at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (SSM) in 2004. Along with the Minnesota Thunder Academy, his program was accepted into the USSF Development Academy (DA) program in 2010. In his time at SSM, he coached two U18 teams to US Soccer DA Quarterfinals and four U18 teams to National Championship Finals. And if that wasn’t enough, he was named US Soccer Development Academy “Coach of the Year” for three consecutive years.
Because all MLS teams are required to have their own DA programs, Minnesota United’s sporting director Manny Lagos started talking to Carter last fall, asking questions about the structure of the USSF DA program. Carter says he made his intentions known that he was interested in the director’s position. He says the job was more of an ongoing discussion than a job offer from United’s front office. He accepted the position last spring and took a bit of time off with his wife before starting work in mid-July. Since then he’s been busy both traveling to Europe and working on plans for the academy.
“Every professional club has a technical heart,” explained Carter saying that will include Lagos, head coach Carl Craig, the DA director, team owner Bill McGuire and “other key staff as they will be added on.” He says one of the first things they will tackle is what sort of academy they want to become.
Carter wants the DA to be inclusive, not exclusive and stresses that it’s going to be a collaborative process with the National Sports Center, MYSA, and youth clubs throughout the state.
“Every MLS Club has its blueprint and it has to fit the market. The one here is going to be very unique. It’s important to take time and listen to the stakeholders,” explained Carter. He wants the DA to be inclusive, not exclusive and stresses that it’s going to be a collaborative process with the National Sports Center, MYSA, and youth clubs throughout the state. “We don’t want to be a competitor in the market,” say’s Carter. He says he will start conducting meetings soon with those stakeholders and plans on doing a lot of listening.
“You want a connection from top to bottom, but honestly, that’s still being discussed. With the team being in the middle of a season it’s hard to have all those discussions right now.” He believes that will start ramping up in the near future and said the team has yet to decide when it will start their academy program which runs from fall to early summer.
Development academies are expensive, particularly in Minnesota where teams have some of the highest cost of all DA teams in the U.S. They have to travel further to play their competition and have the added expenses of dome-training 5 to 6 months of the year. With all costs, most MLS academies are, at this point and time, a losing proposition. Carter is aware of that and the demands owners can have to spend wisely. “I don’t think it’s so much about revolution but evolution,” says Carter. “It’s going to have to evolve and become a more profitable venture with return on investment. I just don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.” He calls it “flexible football,” pointing out that SSM looked very different in how it operated in 2015 than 10 years ago when he started the program. “The first year of our academy won’t be at all like the fifth year,” he explained.
Carter and the technical staff of Minnesota United will have their hands full in the coming months. Even decisions concerning signing players for the first team may be affected by MLS decisions that also influence United’s academy system.
Every MLS team has a development territory which can be different than the club’s commercial territory. There are some parts of the country where it belongs to multiple clubs and other parts belong to only one club. It’s believed that these territories for Minnesota are still up for negotiations with MLS. The number of players that are in a neutral area and can be signed is also up for negotiations. An example would be a player from Fargo if North Dakota is not in the team’s territory.
Players that a club develops within their MLS academy territory can then be claimed by the team as Homegrown Players. A Homegrown Player allows a team to sign the player to a professional contract with the league in a similar fashion as to the Generation Adidas contract which does not count against the MLS salary cap and could earn a higher salary than the league minimum.
FiftyFive.One interviewed former Minnesota Thunder Academy player Jackson Yueill this past summer where he said he was interested in playing for United but didn’t know if the team could claim him as Homegrown.
A relationship with SSM, which Carter said they are in the process of discussing, could also prove interesting for United. Carter says it would offer a great way to identify and develop talent. However, most of SSM’s players come from outside of Minnesota. That means the bulk of their players will be outside of the team’s territorial area unless MLS decides to include SSM under Minnesota United’s territory. Carter says it’s complicated since MLS, US Soccer, and SSM all have their own requirements and rules for an academy.
There are several other issues that will eventually need to be addressed by MLS and Minnesota United. Talking to college coaches and coaching directors in the state, there is a general acknowledgment that at this point and time there is not enough talent in the state to support two academy systems. With MLS requiring the team to have a DA it will likely leave the current Minnesota Thunder Academy odd man out. Carter said that hasn’t been discussed yet and it would be a decision that comes from US Soccer and not the team or MLS.
In 2013, after Dr. McGuire bought the team, US Soccer reached out to Minnesota United to see if there was any interest in taking over the DA program. Minnesota United considered that option but decided to hold off.
Yet another issue will be the association that Minnesota soccer club St. Croix Academy has with their younger age groups, supplying academy players to Sporting KC. The association has been a good one with success for both players and the teams. However, that could change when United starts their academy, depending on the decision on the territory allowed by MLS. “I don’t know if there is a grandfather rule for this, but I would imagine that if you are in the home territory of an MLS team that is certainly going to have something to do with decisions,” said Carter who says he’s honestly not asked that question.
These issues are mainly out of his Carter’s hands and he will gladly hand them over to the team’s front office, MLS, and US Soccer. Instead, Carter will focus on what he has become so good at, developing youth players both physically and mentally to get ready for the next level – to play professionally. At SSM he’s had numerous players go pro, most notably, Teal Bunbury.
In Europe this summer he traveled to Freiburg in Germany amongst other teams like Genk in Belgium and Werder Bremen where a former player of his, Thomas Eichin, is now the CEO.
“Frieberg has a slogan at their club that says, ‘Stones not Legs.’ That means they want to invest in building their academy and not just buy players for their first team,” said Carter. It seems to be a phrase that stood out for him and one he can relate to as he builds United’s academy.
He tells one more story of spending time at Ajax when Co Adriaanse was a coach. He says he left there after a week very confused about the system of youth development. So he went back the following summer, this time spending several weeks and never watching the first team or reserves. Instead, he took in every youth team from F junior all the way up to A. “They know so well what their youth product looks like,” said an impressed Carter, explaining his takeaway from his second trip. “They are able to transfer all the way down to the youngest team – the things that they need – in order to produce the type of player they want at the end of that pathway. They had a philosophy and stayed true that from beginning to end. They were patient, consistent and persistent. Those are three qualities you want if you are in the education business or the soccer development business.” They are also traits Carter will bring to Minnesota United’s Development Academy.