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MLS, US Youth Soccer announce new partnership

SOCCER: AUG 18 MLS - Portland Timbers at Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 18: The MLS logo on a soccer ball before an MLS match between the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City on August 18, 2018 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. Sporting KC won 3-0. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLS and US Youth Soccer (USYS) have announce a new partnership which will impact over 3 million youth soccer players.

The agreement says it will “clear a pathway for boys and girls to be seen and scouted, regardless of location or financial resources with MLS absorbing all expenses for players attending and participating in the regional competitions at select age levels.”

USYS is the largest youth sports organization in the USA and part of this plan is for the top talent in each association to play in regional tournaments in front of professional club scouts.

This announcement comes after MLS announced it will run a new youth league which consists of 95 academy teams to replace the league recently cut by the U.S. Soccer Federation due to funding issues.

Per the release, MLS and the 55 associations of USYS will collaborate on enhancements in player identification and monitoring, coaching and scouting education for parents, coaches and volunteers, regional competitions and fan engagement.

Gordon Bengtson, MLS senior director of player development, was keen to point out that this partnership will help young players in underserved communities.

“The state associations are crucial partners in creating more meaningful connections to the professional levels while supporting the overall growth of the game. This is particularly important in communities that have not historically had access to elite development environments or professional pathways. This is a first step towards our goal of making the size and diversity of our country, our biggest strength,” Bengtson said.

The most interesting part of all of this is that MLS will “absorb all expenses for players attending and participating in the regional competitions at select age levels.

MLS say they will “eliminate financial barriers” and “ensure talented players can be seen and scouted during their formative years.”

“Our goal is to ensure that every player throughout the country has the ability to reach his or her highest potential,” said Fred Lipka, MLS technical director of player development. “There are so many young soccer players in this country that do not have the ability to access elite travel soccer programs that offer greater opportunities for talent identification. We want to ensure that every player has a clear pathway to achieve their dream of playing at the collegiate or professional level, regardless of location or financial resources.”

This new partnership promises plenty and it is something both USYS and MLS call a long-term vision as they try to link the professional and grassroots game in the USA.

If MLS and US Youth Soccer get this right, it could be a game-changer for identifying young talent from across the country.

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