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Minnesota Thunder Academy Accepted into USSF Development Academy Program

2010 April 2
by Brian Quarstad

The Minnesota Thunder Academy (MTA) will announce Friday morning that they are only 1 of 2 1 of 4 teams accepted into the prestigious USSF Development Academy for 2010.  The other teams are Shattuck St. Mary’s, the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders.

According to Barry Neal, president of the MTA, Louis Mateus of the USSF Development Academy contacted MTA on Monday of this week and notified them of their acceptance. The organization had visited MTA several weeks ago as part of their application process. Last year, MTA and Shattuck St. Mary’s soccer program both applied but were rejected while 5 other clubs from around the country were accepted.

The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an every day environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players. The Academy’s programming philosophy of increased training, less total games and more competitive games is based on U.S. Soccer’s Best Practices utilized by the U-17 U.S. National Team Residency program.

The Development Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy team is evaluated by a National Team coach at least ten times each year and each Academy club receives two formal evaluations in over 100 categories each year from National Team staff.

“It was one of our goals and we were working towards it for years when we were still Bangu,” said Neal. “And it was part of our hope when we collaborated with the Wings that we could get there faster and we are just as happy as can be that this time has come. Everything we had planned and worked towards has come together for us on the boys side of the program.”

Neal credited Rob Zahl for his hard work on this year’s MTA application but also credited Manny Lagos and Mark Abboud for their past vision and work on making this a reality.

Neal says the club’s acceptance into the program will throw changes into his club and the MYSA State Cup. He explains that the Development Academy program operates like FIFA with birth dates of players falling into a calendar year, where the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association’s (MYSA) birth dates are considered as of August. Also, the Development Academy has only boys teams, a U-16 and a U-18 team. Neal explained how this age change shift and 2 age year groupings will cause changes in their teams that are now set at single age teams and aligned with MYSA rules with August birthdays. “Some of our current teams will have to be realigned to work with the calender year,” said Neal. “My assumption is on the U-16 team we will probably have some exceptional U-15’s make that team. On the 18’s there are obviously U-17’s that can play at that level. So really it could impact 4 different age groups for us. There are still many details to work out and it will be a work in progress.”

Neal also stated that his teams already travel a great deal, playing in the Midwest League and traveling to many national tournaments. But in all likelihood, the amount of travel will increase as Academy teams play 15-20 away matches in a given season. Currently there are 30 league games, including 6 games played at Showcases. Clubs play year round but break from league play during their local high school soccer season along with periods of inactivity due to weather. With this decision it will also mean that 2010 will be the last year that those age groups (U-16 and U-18) for MTA are allowed to play in State Cup.

There will also be a some other changes for clubs and players. According to the Development Academy website, academy clubs are required to maintain a minimum of 36 full-time players on their club player pool. There is no limit on the number of players that can be rostered as long as each player starts a minimum of 25% of the clubs matches. Another change for some players will mean they are required to drop any ODP activities or any other soccer affiliation except for high school or National Team duty.

A look at the conferences of the USSF Development Academy shows Minnesota would likely play in the Central Conference, grouped with teams from Chicago, Colorado, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Kansas City. However, Neal stated that with 2 new teams added to the Academy this year, there is talk of conference realignment. The former Bangu and current MTA president explained that his club will enter into the Development Academy program next spring. “It’s a huge step forward for soccer in Minnesota,” said Neal. ” The competition is going to be phenomenal. Soccer in Minnesota has come a long way in the last 10 to 15 years.”

Official USSF Announcement: Note Shattuck St. Mary’s is also included. I had been asked by SSM not to release that information until it had become public from USSF. That is why they were not mentioned in the article. IMS will have a follow up article with quotes from Tim Carter of SSM.

Edited at 11:10 a.m. 04/02/10 after USSF Made official announcement.

26 Responses
  1. Jeff Wolter permalink
    April 2, 2010

    More good stuff for MTA

  2. Jeff Wolter permalink
    April 2, 2010

    More good stuff for Minnesota

  3. Jeff Wolter permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Good stuff

  4. Parkview_Josh permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Jeff is excited…

    just kidding, Jeff.

  5. Jan Costa permalink
    April 2, 2010

    What about Shattuck St. Mary?

  6. Paul permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Great news! Finally!

  7. Jan Costa permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Can someone please tell me if Shattuck was rejected or accepted please?

  8. SuezQ permalink
    April 2, 2010

    If you go to the USSF website, it looks like Shattuck was accepted too.

  9. April 2, 2010

    Yes, but this is very odd. Nothing at the USSF DA website, only at the news of US Soccer and then only a headline with no copy. Even the Headline copy reads oddly.
    “Minnesota Thunder and Shattuck St Marys to Join US Soccer Development Academy for 201011 Season ”

  10. April 2, 2010

    Now that article is suddenly gone but you can still see the headline at:

    This is weird.

  11. SuezQ permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Maybe they’re pulling a day late April Fool’s Joke on us! By the way, that was good yesterday. You had me going!

  12. April 2, 2010

    MTA held the release because of the April 1 thing. They didn’t want thinking it was a joke. Yes, after yesterday that seems like good logic.

    I have an email out to Neil Buethe from US Soccer to try to clarify.

  13. Tom permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Probably just an internal linking issue. They wouldn’t be the first website to have that kind of problem.

  14. Brad permalink
    April 2, 2010

    how does effect MYSA league play next year? I would guess that their would be none.

  15. April 2, 2010

    Yup, already edited that into the article Scott. Thanks.

    Brad, more specific please. What do you mean there would be none? Meaning no league play by those age groups for MYSA? Aren’t the top teams already playing in Midwest league?

  16. Aaron permalink
    April 2, 2010

    This link gives an overview of the USSF Academy that should clear up any confusion over where they play…

  17. Tom permalink
    April 2, 2010

    It was interesting to see the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders partnering with the most successful clubs in their cities (as well as virtually every other MSL team) while there was so much angst here in the Twin Cities regarding the old MN Thunder youth club alliance with MTA. Wonder if there are any differences in how all the entities are (or in MN’s case were) structured or was it just our local in-fighting/club self-preservation, or is the pushback in those markets the same. Might not be the right fit on this thread but the curiosity got the best of me.

  18. Brad permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Brian, yes they are playing Midwest Regional Leauge but those teams are still able to play summer MYSA Leauge. I would think that at the age U15/U16 and U17/U18 they would not be able to play the summer leauge for MYSA.

  19. April 2, 2010

    FC Milwaukee has teams playing WYSA at each age group. Its just the individual DA kids/teams that don’t play in the state league per DA regulations. MTA should probably be able to do the same if they have enough players…

  20. Jeff Wolter permalink
    April 2, 2010

    Sorry, I did not post it three times…??
    Computer hickups??

  21. Marco Turmisi permalink
    April 3, 2010

    This is great news for youth soccer in Minnesota. Thanks to Shattuck and MTA for pursuing this goal and pushing to advance the level of play here in our state.
    This is a great opportunity for the top boys players to compete against the very best of the players in the USA.
    I hope all the young players and their families recongnize the great opportunity this presents to them.

  22. Erik permalink
    April 3, 2010

    An exciting step for MN soccer.

    I believe when this came up before you (Brian) mentioned that MSHSL had said kids in this program were not able to play for their high schools. Have you heard if this is the case or any further developments on that? Since the leagues do not conflict from a timing standpoint I can’t see why they would do this.

  23. Scott Kerssen permalink
    April 4, 2010


    In amongst these comments on Shattuck St. Mary’s being accepted into the USSF Development Acadamy Program, where is zlatan?

    “Yes Teal B. played at SSM in the glory years….ok 3 years ago. SSM has fallen significantly in the past couple of years. They built the program with some outstanding players, before the USSF academy was around. Now the top players in the country stay closer to home, with clubs and play at a level much higher than SSM. The academy teams won’t play SSM. For god sakes, look at SSMs web site for prior year results, SSM lost to the U of M club team last year by 4 or 5 goals, and tied and beat them this year. I think the Apple Valley state HS champs from this past year would play SSM close, if not beat them. SSM also lost to the Twin Stars NPSL team in the fall…come on.”


    “A couple of years ago with Bunburry and a few other stand out players, they competed well. SSM was able to attract higher caliber players until the youth academy system really developed over the past 3 or 4 years. Now most of the academy programs offer similar or better training and a very competitive schedule, while living closer to home.”

    And where’s PollyAnna?

    “I could even kind of understand it if SSM had won the State Cup in either of last year’s U18 or U17 age groups. Most would not consider them the best team in the state. ”


    “In the past all of the highe level U17 & U18 teams practice all winter long 2-3 times a week. So, I’m not buying that SSM is more organized.”

    Or Pat Robson?

    “Sorry Scott Kerssen, SSM last year was not in the same class as several other teams in that age group.”

    The silence has been deafening.

  24. John permalink
    April 4, 2010

    MTA and SSM needed each other to pull this off and probably explains why those folks are quiet. It will be all the other academy teams that have to travel here in the winter that will be whining up a storm.

  25. Zlatan permalink
    April 4, 2010

    I am out East again. What is your point Scott. My point was that SSM peaked. Without Bunburry, they would not have received the designation. SSM will have more competition now as MN kids from the metro now have no reason to go south to train. Don’t give me the better education BS. SSM is comparable to any other private or well funded pubilc school as far as academic performance. I am very happy that both SSM and MTA received the designation. Any U14-U18 MN male soccer player will finally have the chance to consistently train and play against the best the Midwest has to offer. Certainly MTA and SSM have already raised the bar over the past 4 or 5 years. Now, MN will turn out more quality players, it is good for everyone. Congrats to SSM and MTA. I love the 25% play rule as it will keep both of them from hoarding players. It will be interesting to see if SSM allows non-students to participate…I’m guessing that academy rules will not allow exclusivity based enrollment. I think there is a good chance that MTA (and possibly SSM) will still have non-academy teams at the 16 and 18 age group.

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