In inaugural season, U.S. Soccer’s Girls Development Academy’s impact on high school players is causing a divide
Haley Archuleta had the finish to her prep soccer career mapped out. The Gonzaga commit and most of her Real Colorado teammates were planning to again play for the program’s Elite Clubs National League team and for their high schools this spring. As the seniors who had already earned Division I scholarships, there wasn’t much left for them to prove.
But Archuleta, one of the leading scorers on Arapahoe’s Class 5A state runner-up team last year, didn’t get a say in the matter.
As a result of the launch of the U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy, which is in its inaugural season, Archuleta and more than 70 of the best varsity players throughout Colorado were forced to pick between participating for their high school team or their club team that was under the academy’s jurisdiction.
What’s followed has been a siphoning of talent from the best high school teams, and the Girls Development Academy’s rigid participation rules have created a wide divide between U.S. Soccer and its grassroots stakeholders on a nationwide scale.
“It should be the player’s choice how they balance high school and club — if they can do that and be successful in both areas while also having time to do their homework, that’s their right,” Archuleta said. “My teammates and I have all been doing that for three years now in the ECNL. Players across the country should be able to make that decision themselves for who they play for, and not have U.S. Soccer make it for them.”
Before the creation of the Girls Development Academy, the primary club circuit for the best high school-age players in the nation was the ECNL. The ECNL schedule mostly worked around the spring prep season, provided a viable pipeline to Division I scholarships and didn’t prohibit players from playing for their high school team.
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