Last week, Orlando City announced the creation of a youth soccer network. Youth soccer organizations around Central Florida will be able to join, gaining access to club resources. But how will this impact the club’s youth development structure?
According to the club’s official announcement,
“By joining the Orlando City Youth Soccer Network (OCYSN), member organizations will receive exclusive access to the club’s technical curriculum and methodology, youth development practices of City and, as a perk of being under the club’s developmental pyramid, the opportunity to be seen by the club’s technical and scouting staff.”
Orlando City is far from the first team in MLS to create this type of network. New York City FC and Minnesota United FC are two clubs that have created this type of system in recent years. NYCFC’s network started before its academy and Minnesota’s network was created instead of funding a full academy. Ideally, Orlando City’s network will include various youth clubs in conjunction with the club’s development academy.
Currently, MLS clubs have the territorial rights to any player in their designated area. That means the club has the Homegrown Player rights to any player that grows up within approximately 90 miles. While a club might have those player rights, it’s up to the club to identify those players and ensure they don’t get away.
A player that grows up in an area might move away and join another MLS academy. However, their MLS rights might not move with them. In most cases, clubs end up trading for those rights, possibly with an MLS SuperDraft selection. It could end up with the club missing out on a player that could’ve been a future first-team contributor. That’s where this new network should come in.
There are only so many spots available for players within the club’s development academy and players develop at different paces. Additionally, players from further away might find it difficult to join the academy full-time. Instead, they might find it more comfortable to stay closer to home and play for their local club.
Connecting the club with various organizations within Central Florida will deepen the player pool. It will make it easier for the club to pick and choose which players are right for the academy, ensuring it gets the best that the region has to offer.
While the network is a good start, there is more work that should be done. For this program to work efficiently and result in first-team talent, the club needs to make sure that it expands the program as far as possible. While Orlando-area organizations will likely join, the network will need members in Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, Osceola, and Seminole counties as well.
The next step for the club should be to identify where the best talent is coming from and ensure that those organizations are included in the network of youth clubs. Communication with these clubs will make certain that the best players receive the proper development and are known by Orlando City.
With proper funding, the club should be able to take care of the lodging and schooling for those players, allowing them to join the development academy in Kissimmee. This will also give them the opportunity to train with the first team if the staff feels that will be beneficial in their development.
While this announcement sounds good for the future of Orlando City, it really depends on how the club takes advantage of this new program. If done correctly, it will result in an expanded player pool and will increase the quality of development. However, only time will tell how much the Lions will gain from it.