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D.C. United developing path from pre-academy to the first team

D.C. United has formed a partnership with Evergreen FC, and seems to be building a direct line from the pre-academy to the first team.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the announcement yesterday that D.C. United would be partnering with Evergreen FC to place a U-23 team into the USL PDL, United filled a key gap in their youth development system. Last season, the D.C. United U-23s played in the NPSL, a competitor league to the USL PDL, and when it was announced that they would no longer be in that league speculation immediately shifted to the PDL. The team will be coached by Richie Burke, former D.C. United assistant coach under Ray Hudson and former head coach of Livingston FC, a team in the Scottish Championship. D.C. United's U-18 Academy coach Tom Torres will be the assistant coach for that team.

The team will play at the Evergreen Sports Complex in Leesburg, Virginia, which is also the rumored site at which a D.C. United-owned USL team would play should they start up in the next year or two. Combining those rumors with the fact that United just left the NPSL for the USL-run PDL, and the smoke around United creating their own USL team seems more like fire. Should that team come to fruition, it will give United an integrated setup like those seen in teams around the world. United's current youth development system starts with the U-12 pre-academy, meaning that players from the age of 10 will be able to stay in the same system throughout their middle school and high school careers, then play with the U-23 team, and then play as professionals with the USL team until they are ready to make their debut for the first team.

The network of affiliates that they have built means that the team has more eyes than ever scouting for talent, and therefore more competition than ever for the spots in D.C. United's Academy. The residency program means that they can recruit players not only from the greater Mid-Atlantic Region and from places abroad, but also players who live in the DMV but are too far away from RFK Stadium to make that commute possible every day.

While the official line has been that the ownership group wouldn't open up the checkbook until the new stadium was built, this kind of investment is significant and is, in the long run, more important than any one particular designated player signing. United has had the most successful MLS academy so far, and these steps are to make sure that it remains that way well into the future.