Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s U-18 and U-16 Residency teams kick off their United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) season Thursday against San Juan Soccer Club. Coming off their second straight appearance at the USSDA Academy Finals, the U-18s kick off at 5:30 p.m. PT, while the U-16s take to the pitch at 8 p.m. PT. Both matches will be played at the Mather Soccer Complex in Mather, California.
Last season, Vancouver's U-18 side won both their meetings against San Juan Soccer Club, outcoring the California outfit 11-1 in the process. The U-16s, meanwhile, played to a scoreless draw with and suffered a 1-0 defeat against their West Conference, Northwest Division foes.
With another Residency season set to begin, club ambassador Carl Valentine chimes in with his thoughts on the program’s direction.
Excitement and expectations are very high as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency season gets underway this week.
There are 21 players returning to the U-16 side in what looks to be a very strong squad. And there are 10 players returning to the U-18s – with a number of them looking to follow in the footsteps of Sam Adekugbe by signing a Major League Soccer contract with our ‘Caps.
I am really excited with the way the program is shaping up and with the potential being shown by a number of our young players. The coaching staff has put endless hours of work into developing these players and the fruit of their labour is now paying off.
Vancouver’s Residency program was expanded from 20 players to around 80 when we entered MLS less than three years ago. The idea was to get more players involved in the program from a younger age. This way, we had more time to develop them on and off the field.
This system has proved successful with Russell Teibert, who has become a constant in Martin Rennie’s squad this season. Residency graduates Bryce Alderson, Caleb Clarke, and now Adekugbe will be looking to make that next step in the upcoming years.
It’s a lengthy process and there are no guarantees when dealing with very young athletes. Soccer clubs around the world spend a lot of money on youth development and if they get a player coming through every two or three years, they have done well.
Right now, I would have to say we look ahead of schedule as far as players coming through the system. In addition to the recent Adekugbe signing, promising Residency players Marco Bustos and Kianz Froese made their mark in number of MLS Reserve League games this season. Then there’s Jackson Farmer, who recently made his debut with the Canadian senior men’s national team.
Yes, these players still have a ways to go, a lot of hard work, and some ups and downs as they strive to become professional soccer players. Our coaching staff will be well prepared to give them the best chance and prepare them for the path ahead.
It’s not going to be an easy one. Each step up gets harder and they will have to overcome some obstacles along the way. At 16 years old, I remember being told I was not good enough. You can even look at Teibert, who started our first MLS game before taking a couple of years to establish himself.
We must always remember that we are dealing with potential here and we have a lot of it. It’s hard to predict who’s going to make it and who isn’t. There are only a small percentage of players that are going to make the grade. That said, we should be thrilled with the way our youth development program is progressing and the number of talented young players that we can follow as they continue their respective journeys.
If you get a chance, go out and watch these talented players in action and see if you can predict who’s going to be the next Teibert or Adekugbe. A new season is here for Whitecaps FC Residency, and it’s bound to be an exciting one.