Earlier today, New York City FC announced it's creating a league for its youth clubs. Over the past year, NYC has signed affiliation agreements with eleven youth clubs in the New York City area. What wasn't clear was what the nature of that relationship would be.
Now it is, and the implications of this move are staggering. As New York City put it in its release:
The Youth League, created and run by New York City FC will help promote and regulate the development of soccer in the New York City Metro area and of the Club's youth affiliates network, which was recently expanded to 11 affiliates. The League, the type of which has never been seen before at Club level, will follow the philosophy and techniques created within the City Football network.
No other professional club in the United States has done something like this. In fact, it never has. Now, it's pretty run-of-the-mill for the better MLS club academies to have feeder clubs that participate in the National Premier League of U.S. Club Soccer. If a club's discovered a good youth player, it's a solid way to get them rolled up into their setup before they enroll in the Development Academy. The hang-up is that the DA kicks in at the U-14 level.
The creation of the Youth League takes this to the next level. With these eleven clubs, and probably more to come now, New York City now likely has access to thousands of youth players. What's more, it's done it by simply affiliating with existing clubs. But it goes beyond that. This is how a "big club" operates.
Think about it: even though that U-9 slot is non-existent in MLS, and it feels young, in terms of global soccer development its pretty normal. We know that New York City will be setting up its own Development Academy in short order. Once that happens, there's going to be a straight line going from U-9, through the U10, U11, U14, U16 and U18 levels. At some point, there's going to be a New York City II USL Pro team (Westchester City?). Those age groups will likely be augmented by the addition of a U-12 section to the DA ranks in 2016, and either another affiliate or the creation of a New York City U-13 team in U.S. Club Soccer's NPL.
That's massive. It's entirely conceivable that a player turning pro with New York City at age 22 could've been playing in the same developmental system for fourteen years. American soccer fans talk about what it would take to develop world-class players. New York City is actually doing it. That's why this announcement is unprecedented.
For the record, these are the inaugural members of the league:
- Beachside CT Soccer Club
- B.W. Gottschee
- Downtown United Soccer Club
- Long Island Rough Riders
- Soccer Club
- Manhattan Soccer Club
- Metropolitan Oval
- New York Soccer Club
- South Bronx United
- Staten Island Soccer Club
- TSF Academy
- World Class