USL Academy League Confirms Independence as One of Eight Founding Atlantic Division Members
CHARLOTTE - The United Soccer League (USL) confirmed on Wednesday the founding members of the USL Academy League's Atlantic Division, with the Charlotte Independence being one of the eight clubs to compete in the division. The inaugural season of Academy League play is due to kick off in spring 2021 and will provide clubs in all three of the USL's senior divisions with an elite youth development and competition platform.
As one of the clubs participating in the USL Academy League, Independence Soccer Club will field one elite youth team, made up of the top U15-U19 prospects in their organization. With a set of league-mandated standards in place, the league will ensure players' exposure to a high level of competition and development result from direct ties to the Independence.
Dave Carton, Technical Director at Charlotte Independence Soccer Club, said: "Everyone at the Charlotte Independence is excited and proud to be a founding member of the new USL Academy format. We have developed some great relationships with our USL partner clubs over the years, and we trust the vision and leadership of the USL to deliver an outstanding platform."
"The USL Academy adds another dimension to our Boys programming, and we look forward to enhancing our strong partnership with the USL into the future."
The structure of the USL Academy League provides USL clubs a progressive model to develop local players for their Senior Team, at a lessened cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also enable far more clubs and communities to participate, allowing for the regional division format which limits travel demand to teams and families.
The eight clubs set to compete in the Atlantic Division of the inaugural USL Academy League are as follows:
- Charlotte Independence: Charlotte, NC (USL Championship)
- Charlotte Eagles: Charlotte, NC (USL League Two)
- Combine Rush Academy: Charlotte, NC (affiliated with Daytona Rush SC of USL League Two)
- NC Fusion: Greensboro, NC (USL League Two)
- North Carolina FC: Cary, NC (USL Championship)
- Tri-Cities Otters: Johnson City, TN (USL League Two)
- Virginia Beach United: Virginia Beach, VA (USL League Two)
- Wake FC: Wake, NC (USL League Two)
Jeff Bilyk, Boys Academy Director at Charlotte Independence Soccer Club, said: "We are extremely excited to be one of the founding members of the new USL Academy League. This league will continue to help directly connect our Academy players to our first team, and create a platform that promotes development opportunities for players striving to play at the professional level.
"The league's competitive calendar that will align with our pro team will also give our players a really unique game day experience."
He added: "Thank you to Liam O'Connell and the USL for getting this off the ground, and we look forward to the inaugural season this spring."
The 2020 USL Championship season has shown that young players on USL Academy contracts can break through to their local Senior Teams. Players like Owen Barber, Lucas Hatsios, Dylan Mitchiner, and Joey Skinner demonstrate the benefits of an established youth development pathway at CISC with the Independence.
"We are proud to be a part of the USL Academy league and look forward to the regional competition against some of the top youth organizations in our region,' said Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries. "Each year we see the progress of the players in the Academy as they work with our first team - the USL platform will help continue to accelerate that progress."
The launch of the USL Academy League will help all USL clubs identify top prospects, and provide more players with the opportunity to compete against professionals at a younger age.
Regional alignment announcements continue tomorrow with the unveiling of the Southeast Division. For more information on the USL Academy League, visit usl-academy.com/academyleague.
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