Long Beach youth soccer will be forever changed after the U.S. Soccer Federation terminated its nationwide developmental academy league this month because of the COVID-19 pandemic financial impact.
“We know that suddenly discontinuing a program that has been with U.S. Soccer for many years is shocking, but these unprecedented times required taking action now,” the USSF official statement said.
The developmental academy was established 13 years ago in part to create a national league for elite boys and girls club teams of all ages. Beach FC was one of the first clubs to join the developmental academy. Long Beach State women’s soccer coach and Beach FC founder Mauricio Ingrassia said the termination caught him off guard.
“It was a complete mess,” Ingrassia said. “We were getting reassurances that nothing was wrong, and that they were very committed to the academy up until a few days before the announcement.”
Ingrassia thinks COVID-19, the equality lawsuit from women’s soccer players and new leadership at the USSF all contributed to the closure.
“It was very disappointing for us and our families to have that announcement without any lead time,” Ingrassia said. “I know that they’re under pressure … but we had to find out with a press release. I can’t even imagine being a player and and have that rug pulled out from under us. It was just terrible.”
Ingrassia and his top Beach FC teams have moved quickly to find a regional spot in the Elite Clubs National League which will hopefully start in the fall.
The developmental academy also restricted players from competing for their high school teams. But that’s not the case in the ECNL.
“You’re going to see the level of high school soccer increased dramatically because all the players will be allowed to play,” Ingrassia said. “With all the talent that’s going to be available, that’s going to be fun to watch.”
Long Beach Poly, Wilson and Millikan have a handful of academy players who could come back next season. Wilson girls coach Dalton Kaufman, who also coaches with Beach FC, said he’s expecting a few talented Bruins to return to his lineup.
“I’m kind of letting the dust settle before I start knocking on doors and asking them if they’re going to come back,” Kaufman said. “I’m sure it’s not the first thing on their mind right now.”
Kaufman thinks club sports will still be the number one recruiting ground, but that a return to high school will be good for the players.
“I’ve already heard that some of the (Beach FC) girls are very excited to come back (to high school soccer teams) to just have some fun,” Kaufman said. “Now they’ll get three months off from club soccer, which they didn’t get before with the developmental academy because it was a 12-month season. Now they get to come back, relax, hang out with their friends and play some fun soccer.”
“High school sports are so iconic,” Kaufman added. “It’s such a big part of our culture in America. I think these kids missed it and they’re going to be excited to come back.”
The increased talent in high school soccer will also create more transfers and movement in CIF-SS divisions.
“There’s going to be some schools in Orange County that get almost a whole team back,” Kaufman said.