SALT LAKE CITY -- Real Salt Lake has joined many of the other teams in MLS with their first entry into US Soccer’s Development Academy program beginning with the 2010/2011 season.
The Real Salt Lake-Arizona program, headed by former MLS’er Greg Vanney, was one of three applications selected from a pool of 200. It will be eligible to participate in competitions sponsored by the US Development Academy beginning next season.
Although the RSL-Arizona program was founded in 2007, it took a major step forward over the last year with the addition of Vanney and a comprehensive training program that was put into place at the Grande Sports World complex in Casa Grande, Arizona.
According to Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey, this is an important step forward for the club.
“The ability to direct and control the development of the young players who come through our new RSL-Arizona Academy is critical to our future success.”
Vanney is also excited for the possibilities that this opens up.
"This is an amazing day for Arizona youth soccer and for all players who seek to develop to their full potential and dream of playing for RSL or the US National Team,” said Vanney. “Through this process, we have garnered interest from several youth national team players and prospects. Our expectations will be high from day one.”
According to Lagerwey, the availability of the complex in Casa Grande, as well as Vanney’s involvement, were key in getting the program to this point.
“It doesn’t happen without either of those elements,” said the general manager.
Vanney is particularly important, as he is also going to be working with former US international and current US Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna in a capacity to help develop the youth across the nation.
Lagerwey also indicated that Juergen Sommer, a former goalkeeper who was the first American to play at that position in the English Premier League, may join the program in the near future in some capacity.
The development of an Arizona academy, according to Lagerwey, was important because, “when you look at the number of players that [Arizona] develop, there has been a tragic number of kids that have gone to Mexico to play.”
In other words, the academy was established to ensure that domestic talent develops domestically.
In addition to the RSL-Arizona program, Real Salt Lake also has non-Academy programs in both Utah and Arizona. Lagerwey indicated that developing a full Academy program in Utah will be the next focus.