Orlando City Academy: Focusing On Complete Player Development

orlando city academy focusing on complete player development

The Orlando City Academy has recently introduced a virtual academic curriculum to their U15 players. This will expand to the U17 team and an onsite classroom by the start of next school year. The move should serve to improve their player development and coincides with their newly developed youth club network.

All of this is exciting news that helps to show the commitment Orlando City has with the youth in the area.

The Goal: Complete Player Development

Orlando City academy has placed a large amount of focus on increasing their number of college placements. This is one of several moves that have occurred recently to expand and grow OC’s influence within the youth soccer community here in Central Florida. With the addition of a NCAA virtual academic curriculum and plans to have both classrooms and teachers onsite at the Osceola training complex, it is clear to see the effort going in to achieving this goal.

But why college placement? They are a pro club after all, whose primary objective each and every year is to field the team that puts them in a position to win. While true, the academy is designed around player development. This is multifaceted when dealing with youth athletes and relies on a lot more than just time on the pitch. However, these adjustments also allow for a more professional training environment, with academy players being able to train in the morning alongside the U23 MLS Team and the First Team. This enables the organization to easily move players around and streamline the training process.

Another way that they are attempting to develop players and enable the club to more easily move players within their system is through the development of the Orlando City Youth Soccer Network. This network is big for not only the club but the soccer community in Florida as a whole.

How They Are Going To Do It

How exactly they are going to successfully achieve this can be summed up with two names, Oscar Pareja and Luiz Muzzi. The duo has been here before, having previously worked together at FC Dallas, where they successfully revamped the academy structure. This is further supported by the amazing coaching and front office staff present at the club.

To the public this player development initiative can be seen through the academy partnership with us here at SAI Academy and the creation of the recently announced Orlando City Youth Soccer Network.

Our Partnership

SAI Academy is the exclusive pre-college academic provider for the Orlando City SC academy. We started this year with the U15 team and will expand to the U17s next year. Our staff provides curriculum support, weekly academic plans, and academic counseling to the players.

Our virtual curriculum allows for the flexibility required to develop in both athletics and academics. We evaluate and develop the progress of each individual student-athlete according to their needs and abilities. Then we will pace and progress them through the curriculum while monitoring their understanding of the material. Parents receive regular updates on the academic progress of their child.

All of this is then organized around the desired training and competitive schedule of the U15 academy team. There is a give and take between the athletes time. In periods where the athletic demands are high we have the ability to adjust the course load so that the players are not overly stressed and fatigued. However, in times where training is less demanding we will ramp up the coursework to ensure the athletes are progressing appropriately within their academic path.

This is an extremely valuable approach for both the players and their parents, the results of which allow these athletes to optimize their progress within academics and athletics.

Orlando City Youth Soccer Network

The other way that the Orlando City SC academy is going to maximize player development opportunities is through the recently announced Orlando City Youth Soccer Network. This move really serves to benefit the Central Florida youth soccer community as a whole and not just the academy. The goal is to extend the reach of influence for the club within its direct market area. In doing so the club will provide access to their methods and coaches, while gaining access to other youth organization’s players.

It is an attempt to build relationships in the community, not just so that they can extend the reach of their player development pathway, but also to grow their base of potential future fans. This area is ripe with talent, and when you combine that with the year round training climate you can begin to see how big the club’s involvement in the community is going to be.

While not the only focus, the Orlando City Youth Soccer Network is going to extend the ability to identify and develop talent in the area. This in turn should result in a more robust academy system, as well as on overall improvement in the area’s level of play.

SAI Academy Campus

Now we here at SAI Academy are connected to this network through our campus partnership with Orlando City Soccer School Seminole, formerly known as Orlando City Youth Soccer Club. Our campus is conveniently located at the off-site academy training grounds. This means that every OC academy player not on the U15 or U17 teams trains right next door to SAI.

For players with academy level ability this is huge. It means that they can move within the academy and youth soccer network systems without having to adjust their academic curriculum. This benefits non-academy hopefuls both in our general virtual pathway features and in the connection we have with the academy system. We know how they operate and what they look for in a player.

Now the real benefit to OC academy players is that they can stay within our curriculum while moving throughout the academy structure. Players that are not selected to stay on-site at Osceola will hopefully transition to Seminole, and if they choose, continue their education with SAI. There will be lots of player movement from the pro facility to Seminole Soccer Complex and potentially back to the pro facility, either through the academy or the Orlando City B team. All of which can be supported academically by us if the players and families choose.

An Integrated Soccer Pathway

This newfound effort within Orlando’s youth soccer community is exciting and hopefully will result in an improved player development system, both for Orlando City SC academy and youth clubs in the area. Nonetheless, the attention to our youth by a pro sports organization is refreshing and hopefully a sign of what’s to come.

sai academy orlando player pathway

If you look at the experience present within the club it seems almost inevitable that the OC academy will become one of the best in the MLS, which in turn should result in success with the First Team. The performances over the past year show that this club has made significant strides in becoming a premier organization in this league. There is surely only more to come moving forward and all of us here at SAI Academy can’t wait to see the results of all this work.

John Evans

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