U.S. Soccer (USSF) announced the first 25 clubs that will be participating in the United States Girl's Development Academy (USGDA), set to launch in the fall of 2017.
Sky Blue FC is one of six NWSL clubs currently slated to participate in the program, although more NWSL clubs may be announced at a later date. The other NWSL teams participating are the Boston Breakers, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, and the Washington Spirit.
To join the development academy, Sky Blue FC has partnered with Player Development Academy (PDA), a New Jersey-based development program established in 1998.
"We are very excited to establish Sky Blue-PDA and be named as a founding member of the U.S. Soccer Girl’s Development Academy, and to play a pivotal role in the furtherance and development of the women’s game," Sky Blue FC’s co-owner Steven Temares said in a statement released by the team. "As an organization, we remain focused on the technical ability and tactical awareness of our players. We also strive to bring a brand of entertaining and winning soccer that is world-class in caliber."
Modeled after the U.S. Boy’s Development Academy launched in 2007, the USGDA is a program designed to develop the country’s top-performing female athletes wishing to compete at higher levels, whether collegiate or professionally.
Three combined age groups—U-14/15, U-16/17, U-18/19—will exist through the USGDA. The academy’s games will be scouted by USSF and will be the primary pathway to the youth national teams.
One criticism of USSF’s decision to create their own girl’s development academy is that there were other solid pathways to collegiate and professional soccer—high school programs and club leagues like the ENCL—already in existence for female athletes.
Resistance to the USGDA only increased when rumors that athletes participating in the program would not be allowed to also play for high school teams began spreading, a fact that was confirmed by USSF’s announcement.
While USSF claims that only approximately one percent of the nation’s athletes will participate in the USGDA, it will be interesting to see how its creation will affect the landscape of women’s soccer in the future.
The full list of teams announced as USGDA members are below. Other teams may be added to this list as applications are submitted and evaluated.