After dispelling rumors last month that FC Cincinnati’s Academy might disband, the club announced on Wednesday that it is growing.
For the 2020-21 season, the club’s development pyramid will expand to launch pre-Academy Under-13 and Under-14 teams and an Under-19 team, according to a club media release. Additional information about the pre-Academy teams will be released in the coming weeks, including staff, discovery and program information.
“Adding these three programs to our established Under-15 and Under-17 teams provide increased opportunities for players to aspire to, and train for, a different level of soccer,” FCC director of player development Larry Sunderland said in the release. “We’ve always held the belief that we need to be the ones to push soccer to a higher level in our region. Expanding our development pyramid allows greater access to our system for more players, families and coaches in our region.”
All FCC Academy (U15, U17, U19) and Pre-Academy teams (U13, U14) will compete in MLS’s recently-announced elite player development platform. Sixty-five academy clubs will join the MLS club academies to form the new national development partnership.
This past season, these clubs participated in the now-defunct U.S. Soccer Development Academy (DA) which had its season halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Adding these age groups gives more players the opportunity to access the FC Cincinnati system, our culture, our playing style and our values,” said Sunderland.
“It not only creates a longer player development runway for FC Cincinnati but also gives so many more players a great opportunity for identification and involvement in our programs.”
As a full FCC Academy program, the U-19 team will also be fully funded by the club, including all players’ expenses including equipment, uniforms, facilities, coaching and all team travel.
While only some of the club’s U-17 players will graduate to the U-19 side, the addition of the older age group will allow greater development flexibility for the region’s top players, as well as younger FCC first-team players occasionally.
“We believe adding a U19 team gives us greater coverage as we further develop players with potential to be incorporated to the first team,” Sunderland said. “This age group is designed for pre-professional development and brings the goal of professional soccer closer to view.”
For the Pre-Academy teams, costs related to training will be fee-free and fully covered, including uniforms, equipment, facilities and coaching. Consistent with teams in these age groups, travel to competitions will be facilitated by families – not by the club – and will not be covered.
Players are identified for potential inclusion in the program in several ways, including scouting, recommendations from coaches and staff and the FCC Discovery Program. Once a player is identified as having potential to play for the FCC Pre-Academy or FCC Academy, the player will be notified either through his club, or directly, and extended an invitation to train with the appropriate team.
The club plans to build out its development pyramid over the next few years as well as expand feeder and talent identification programming. Additional details about regional development and identification opportunities will be announced this summer.
“Adding Pre-Academy teams is an important part of the player development pyramid,” Sunderland said. “For many players, this will be their first experience in the FC Cincinnati system and will provide them with the basis for all future development with us. After being identified and joining the program, we expect players on these teams to really help us solidify our style of play with a younger age group in the region, which ultimately will help us lift the level of soccer all around us.”