9.2 Academy

FRISCO, Texas - The FC Dallas Academy's 2021/22 MLS Next season starts this week and here are five things to know ahead of the new campaign.

1. Age Groups and Teams

The FC Dallas Academy will field teams in the MLS Next U-13, U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-19 age groups. MLS Next also has a U-16 group but FCD merges its U-16 players with its U-17 team. Also, FCD has a U-12 Academy team that is too young for the MLS Next platform but it’s still a crucial component of the FCD Academy system. FC Dallas currently has 11 Academy products signed to Homegrown contracts in its first team, and MLS Next is a crucial stepping stone to that next level.

2. Schedule

The four youngest age groups (U-13 through U-17) kickoff their MLS Next campaigns on Sept. 18 against the Houston Dynamo FC Academy at Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco. FCD’s U-19s starts their season a week later against Real Colorado. The regular season runs through early June before filtering in the MLS Next Playoffs. The new season also features more games for each age group:

Chris Hayden, FC Dallas VP of Youth Soccer: “The competition structure is more robust with more games, more weekends with matches and a more regular, consistent schedule—which is one of the three pillars to our success as a club: you have to have good games to play. The league has done a good job dealing with the COVID protocols and putting together the competition plan.”

3. Path to Pro

Another change for this year affects the U-15 and U-17 age groups. Those groups are considered “path to pro” and they will play more games against fellow MLS academies to ensure the high levels of competition.

Chris Hayden: “The biggest change is that the U-15 and U-17 age groups are considered “pro pathway” age groups, meaning we will more frequently play MLS teams’ academies at a higher percentage than in prior years. It’s an attempt to really accelerate the development of in MLS clubs by increasing the frequency of meaningful and professional club matches.”


4. Youth Movement

This season, the FC Dallas Academy teams will be on the younger side of the spectrum as the club continues to push its players into older age groups. The practice helps top-end talents develop quicker while playing with and against older players. It also creates room below them for the next player up. Although it makes competing tougher, it also accelerates player development.

Chris Hayden: “One of the biggest changes from prior years is that we have a large number of players playing up in age. We’re going to be very young in the U-19s and U-17s. For the foreseeable future, I see that being the case where we’ll typically be a young team. I think that’ll be more of the norm as we have really talented kids and we’re going to try and accelerate them.”

5. International Tournaments

This year, FCD’s Academy teams hope to return to their usual busy schedule of international youth tournaments. The COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel and had a huge impact on youth soccer in general. In the latter half of 2021 and beginning of 2022, the Academy will make its return on the international scene as multiple age groups will compete in Copa Rayados against Liga MX youth academies.