The Crew SC Academy ushered in the start of the 2020 MLS NEXT season with a "Signing Day" celebration held at Fortress Obetz earlier this week.
Ahead of their first match on Sept. 12, every player from each Academy team gathered in front of teammates, coaches, and family to celebrate the start of a new campaign and, for some, their first season with the Academy.
"We're trying to prepare them to be professionals, so hopefully this is a day they can envision as they try to become a pro," said Technical Director & VP of Soccer Operations Pat Onstad. "It's a celebration."
Crew SC Academy Director Kelvin Jones thanked the parents and current players for "helping lay the foundation" for what's to come, as the organization embarks on a new format to the season.
The Academy teams have been training since mid-August, and Saturday's home matches against the Michigan Wolves represent the start of a new era for not only the Crew SC Academy, but for competitive youth soccer in North America following Wednesday's MLS NEXT announcement.
Featuring six age groups (U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-19), MLS NEXT competition is designed to highlight local rivalries and eliminate air travel and overnight trips, with select matches to be played at neutral sites in geographically centered locations.
In all, there are 489 teams across 113 clubs in the platform, but it's not just player development that the Crew and the new-found League are focused on. In addition to top-level competition, MLS NEXT is putting into place initiatives to advance coaching education, personal development, player identification, and community service.
"Our goal is to become the best Academy in the country," continued Onstad. "We still have a lot of work to do ahead of us, but I think with our [training] facility and where it's headed, and the people we have in place, we are excited for what's to come."
For more information on the Crew SC Academy, visit www.ColumbusCrewSC.com/academy.