Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers were announced as a new addition to the US Soccer Development Academy for the 2012-13 season, joining the West Conference's Northwest Division.
The conference includes Crossfire Premier (Kirkland, Wash.) and Seattle Sounders FC (Tukwila, Wash.) as well as a number of clubs from California and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Canada.
Currently, all USSF Development Academy membership resides west of the Cascades, leaving a void in the Inland Northwest. According to US Soccer communications, there has been minimal interest from clubs outside of the Northwest’s larger communities of Seattle and Portland.
The Portland Timbers joined Major League Soccer in 2011 and are currently in the midst of their second season at the senior team level. The Timbers’ soccer history began in 1975 as an expansion club within the original North American Soccer League.
The Timbers Youth Academy is forming U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams that will participate in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, and the groups will be led by club-endorsed coaches to identify and develop top youth players within the state of Oregon. Mike Smith and Adam Smith are the directors of the Timbers Academy.
“The Portland Timbers have had great success in their inaugural season in MLS and look forward to continued success this season, as well. The addition of the Academy program will provide a sound platform for elite youth player development in the area,” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy Technical Advisor Hugo Perez, who oversees the Northwest Division. “The Portland area has consistently developed a strong player pool for Youth National Team programs. We hope the addition of the Portland Timbers Academy Program will help continue to improve upon the history of player development.”
The Timbers met all of the technical and administrative criteria for admission to the Development Academy, and Portland’s youth system is committed to providing a fully funded program for its participants. The 2011-12 Development Academy season features 14 fully funded programs.
“We are delighted to have our Academy teams at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and compete against top youth clubs in North America,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson said. “This is a big step in the establishment of our youth development program, one that is fully supported by our alliance clubs, the Oregon Premier League and the state association. We look forward to getting these teams started and expanding the reach of our youth player development.”
The announcement is a part of the collaborative program between the Timbers and Oregon Youth Soccer Association (OYSA) that will provide the state with a nationally recognized boy’s ODP program and a top-flight academy system to develop home-grown talent. The new program is designed to coexist with youth clubs and share in player development, allowing players to stay connected to their local clubs. One of the new major components of the ODP program is the establishment of six regional training centers, which will be organized and managed by the Timbers and OYSA. The training centers will be located in the cities of Beaverton, Bend, Eugene/Salem, Gresham, Medford and Vancouver, Wash.
The Development Academy was created in 2007 to enhance the player development environment for elite youth players in the U.S., with specific focus on increasing the number of training sessions, decreasing the total number of games, while increasing the number of quality matches to maintain the highest level of coaching, refereeing and competition available in an everyday environment.