Major League Soccer (MLS) is the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. Since its inception in 1996, the league has grown in popularity and has produced some of the best soccer players in North America. MLS academies play a vital role in developing young talent and providing them with the necessary training to become successful professional soccer players. In this article, we will discuss the best MLS soccer academies in the USA and the type of soccer training they provide.
Best MLS soccer academies in USA
MLS is ranked as one of the top 29 soccer leagues in the world, according to the World Soccer Talks. The league has 29 teams, 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada. MLS is known for its high level of competition, passionate fan base, and its ability to develop young players. Here are the Best MLS soccer academies in USA
1. Philadelphia Union
The Philadelphia Union is a professional soccer club in the Philadelphia metropolitan area that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the Eastern Conference. Founded on February 28, 2008, the club joined MLS as an expansion team in 2010.
The Union has an exemplary youth development program, the Union Junior Academy, consisting of three full-time teams for U9, U10, and U11 boys. The program is renowned in North America for its exceptional training and development practices, which have become a benchmark for other MLS academies.
The Union Junior Academy is supported by regional clubs and feeder programs such as Philadelphia Union Youth, which offers camps, clinics, and summer select teams, and The SWAG, providing inner-city training for players aged U4 through U8.
The Union Junior Academy aims to foster a long-term passion for soccer among its young players. This passion fuels their journey through the “Pathway to the Pros,” culminating in a professional debut as a Philadelphia Union Homegrown player.
The Union’s commitment to youth development has resulted in the emergence of top talent such as Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, and Anthony Fontana, who have excelled in the club. In 2021, five additional Union Academy products joined the Union’s MLS roster, further solidifying the team’s reputation for producing world-class talent.
2. Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake, or RSL, is an American professional soccer club based in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. As a member club of Major League Soccer in the Western Conference, RSL began playing in 2005 as an expansion team.
The RSL Academy is dedicated to unlocking the full potential of young men, both as athletes and individuals. For some, this means earning professional contracts with Real Salt Lake or Real Monarchs, while for others, it may involve pursuing higher education while continuing to play soccer. Each player follows their own unique path, with some progressing more quickly than others.
When the technical staff determines that a player is ready to advance, parents and guardians are informed of the decision with detailed information provided. Players join the RSL Academy in Herriman, Utah at the U15 age level, with opportunities to move between the U15 and U17 teams based on their skill levels to ensure each player has the appropriate level of competition. The academy teams compete in the MLS NEXT, which features a year-round schedule that includes a winter tournament and the MLS NEXT Cup in the summer. In addition, the U17s compete in the United Premier Soccer League, providing older players with a higher level of competition akin to that found in the USL Championship.
3. FC Dallas:
FC Dallas is a professional soccer club based in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, competing in Major League Soccer as a member of the Western Conference. As a charter club of the league, the franchise began play in 1996.
Launched in 2008, the FC Dallas Academy has become a leading platform for talented youth players to develop into professional soccer players. Widely regarded as the top MLS Academy, the program has an impressive track record of producing pros. Since 2009, 34 academy players have been signed to Home Grown contracts, the most in MLS.
The FC Dallas Academy has produced many notable alumni, including international stars Weston McKennie, Kellyn Acosta, Ricardo Pepi, Chris Richards, and Jesus Ferreira. In addition to individual achievements, the Academy has won numerous international events, including the U19 Super Group at the 2017 Dallas Cup, as well as four US Soccer Development Academy championships. In 2016, the FC Dallas Academy made history by winning both the U16 and U18 USSDA National Championships in the same year, an achievement that has yet to be replicated.
4. Chicago Fire:
Based in Chicago, the Chicago Fire Football Club is a professional soccer team that competes in Major League Soccer as a member of the Eastern Conference, following their move to the conference in 2002.
In preparation for the 2023-24 season, the Chicago Fire Football Academy is set to host a series of talent identification events. These events will be focused on identifying future academy players for the incoming U-13 age group, and players born in 2011 will be given the opportunity to showcase their skills over the coming months, with Academy staff on hand to assess their potential.
Chicago Fire has a strong track record when it comes to integrating young players into the first team, with Gaga Slonina and Brian Gutierrez being two key players who have made significant contributions to the team at a young age.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, the Academy will be reintroducing a U-19 team and hosting open tryouts in December. These tryouts are aimed at sophomores and juniors in high school, as well as players born in 2007, 2006 or 2005. A full schedule of events is available and interested players can register for tryouts on the Academy’s website.
5. San Jose Earthquakes
The San Jose Earthquakes is a professional soccer club based in San Jose, California, compete in Major League Soccer as a member of the Western Conference. As one of the charter members of the league, the franchise began playing in 1996 under the name San Jose Clash.
The San Jose Earthquakes Academy, which operates within the Major League Soccer system, comprises teams in the U13, U14, U15, and U17 age groups. Notably, our academy teams don’t require players to pay for participation.
San Jose Earthquakes has access to a rich pool of talent, which makes the competition in the region relatively scarce. The team’s success is evident in the quality of players such as Cade Cowell, Niko Tsakiris, and Cruz Medina.
6. New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls is a professional soccer club located in the New York metropolitan area, are committed to providing young players with a top-notch training environment through their Player Development System. The program is designed to offer multi-layered training and development opportunities for youth players in the Tri-State area.
As part of their homegrown approach, the Red Bulls have access to the expertise and resources of a global soccer brand to provide exceptional youth soccer programs.
The Red Bulls take pride in their highly trained coaching staff who continuously receive ongoing training to ensure they provide the best guidance to help players develop and reach their full potential. Through this comprehensive system, the New York Red Bulls aim to support young players and develop them into successful athletes.
7. Inter Miami
Inter Miami CF, or simply Inter Miami, is a professional soccer club based in the Miami metropolitan area. Established in 2018, the club joined Major League Soccer in the 2020 season.
The Inter Miami CF Academy, presented by Baptist Health, offers South Florida’s most talented players with practical, achievable paths to reach the sport’s highest levels. The Club funds six youth teams across six age groups, ranging from U12 through U17. Inter Miami CF pledges to attract, keep, and develop local talent, creating a strong pool of prospects for the First Team under the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
Launched in 2019 ahead of the club’s inaugural MLS season, the Academy comprises teams in the U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, and U-17 age groups.
Located at the Inter Miami Training Center, the Academy trains and competes alongside the MLS and MLS NEXT Pro teams.
8. Seattle Sounders Academy:
The Seattle Sounders Academy is known for its focus on developing players’ technical and tactical skills. They have produced several MLS players and US Men’s National Team players. The academy offers a year-round training program that prepares players for the professional level. Website: https://www.soundersfc.com/academy
9. Sporting Kansas City Academy:
The Sporting Kansas City Academy is known for its focus on developing players’ technical skills and tactical understanding of the game. They have produced several MLS players and US Men’s National Team players. The academy offers a comprehensive training program that prepares players for the professional level. Website: https://www.sportingkc.com/academy
10. Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy:
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC Academy is known for its focus on developing players’ technical skills and creativity. They have produced several MLS players and Canadian National Team players. The academy offers a year-round training program that prepares players for the professional level. Website: https://www.whitecapsfc.com/youth/academy
11. Toronto FC Academy:
The Toronto FC Academy is known for its focus on developing players’ technical skills and tactical understanding of the game. They have produced several MLS players and Canadian National Team players. The academy offers a comprehensive training program that prepares players for the professional level. Website: https://www.torontofc.ca/academy
Requirements to Join Academy:
Each academy has its own requirements for joining, but generally, players must be between the ages of 12 and 18 and have a high level of skill and potential. Some academies also require players to have a certain level of academic achievement and to maintain good grades in school. Interested players can visit the academy’s website to learn more about the specific requirements and application process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are MLS academies only for boys?
No, some MLS academies offer programs for girls as well.
Can players from outside the United States join an MLS academy?
Yes, some academies have international programs that allow players from other countries to join.
Do MLS academies provide scholarships?
Some academies offer scholarships to players based on their skill level and financial need.
How long is the training program at an MLS academy?
The length of the training program varies depending on the academy, but generally, it runs year-round and can last anywhere from 9 months to 2 years.
Can players still attend school while training at an MLS academy?
Yes, most academies require players to attend school and maintain good grades in order to participate in the program. Some academies even offer academic support to help players balance their academic and athletic commitments.
What happens after a player graduates from an MLS academy?
Players who graduate from an MLS academy have several options. They can pursue a professional soccer career, either in MLS or in other professional leagues around the world. They can also choose to attend college and continue playing soccer at the collegiate level, or pursue other career opportunities outside of soccer.
Do MLS academies only focus on soccer skills, or do they also provide other types of training?
MLS academies generally focus primarily on soccer skills and development, but some academies also offer additional training in areas such as nutrition, strength and conditioning, and sports psychology. This holistic approach is designed to help players develop not only their soccer skills, but also their overall physical and mental well-being.
MLS soccer academies play a crucial role in developing young talent and preparing them for the professional level. The academies listed above are some of the best in the country and offer comprehensive training programs that focus on developing players’ technical, tactical, physical, and mental skills. If you are a young soccer player with a passion for the game and a desire to play at the professional level, consider joining an MLS academy and taking your skills to the next level.