US development academy shuts down, leaving players without their teams


Helen Otteni

DA shut-down affects soccer player sophomore Helen Otteni.

Emma Mansfield, Executive Editor

Last Thursday, one of US Soccer’s most competitive youth leagues shut down due to a surge of financial struggles instigated by the COVID-19 outbreak. Originally founded in 2007, the Development Academy was meant to be a platform for young soccer players to train at the highest level against a variety of strong opponents on the national stage. 

While the league did not open a girls’ program until 2017, the D.A. has amassed over 160 clubs, including Virginia’s own Arlington soccer club along with Maryland’s Bethesda Academy. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of young athletes dedicate themselves to the year-round commitment that playing for the Academy requires. 

Sophomore Helen Otteni who played for Arlington’s D.A. team expresses her concern at the future of not just her own club, but the opportunities for her and her teammates to get scouted by college recruiters, especially as they’re well within the midst of the college recruiting process. 

“This year recruiting became twice the stress. So once everything shut down, people were freaking out,” said Helen. 

To make matters even more difficult, Academy athletes are asked to sacrifice a large portion of their social life and ability to be fully involved in their school due to their commitment to the league. 

All athletes from ages 13 to 19 must train four days a week in a season with one to two games on weekends. In addition, teams compete at annual college recruiting showcases scattered across the country, taking place in Florida, Colorado, and California. 

Helen described that last December, she had to miss an entire week of school for a college showcase in Florida. Keeping up with missing school work proved to be a daunting challenge in addition to managing the stress affiliated with the demanding event. 

And, for many one of the hardest sacrifices is the inability to play for their respective high school sports teams. Since the league was established over 10 years ago, many Potomac students have been unable to play for Potomac’s own soccer team. So, the silver lining, and quite possibly a saving grace, to the shut down is a new opportunity for athletes to finally represent their high school teams. 

“Honestly, it was one of the first things that came to my mind after hearing the news. I feel like the culture at school is so great. I’m really sad that I’ve missed out on it for so long,” said Helen.