Thursday, January 15, 2009

U-17 Residency Alumni Make it Big in MLS Draft

One of the interesting side notes from today's 2009 MLS Super Draft is the impact of the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program. Four of the top 11 picks - led by defender Omar Gonzalez - spent a significant portion of their development growth years training and competing in the daily soccer environment in Bradenton, Fla.

All four players spent time together in Residency and contributed to the U-17's successful run through qualifying and eventual fifth-place finish in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru. Gonzalez was selected with the #3 pick by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Peri Marosevic went next, chosen by FC Dallas with the #5 selection. Kevin Alston closed out the top 10 when he was taken by the New England Revolution, immediately followed by the New York Bulls picking up Jeremy Hall.

Often times youth development programs are measured by results, when realistically the true measure may comes years later when and whether the players reach the elite levels of the sport.

"The reason that Residency exists is to create an environment for elite level players to be able to reach their full potential," said U.S. Men's National Team Assistant Coach and Development Academy Technical Director John Hackworth. "U.S. Soccer strongly believes that this time in their lives is crucial to their development, and today's draft contributes to the validation of the work that has been done during the last decade in Bradenton."

Hackworth, the former U-17 coach who oversaw these four players during their time in Residency, believes that their time in Bradenton provided an important foundation, and is only one piece of what will hopefully be successful careers at both the professional and international levels.

"I'm proud that their time in Bradenton played a part in helping them achieve their goal of becoming professional soccer players. However, this is only the beginning of the next stage of their careers, and it will be equally important for them to build on the lessons they have learned and continue to grow and mature as both players and people."

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