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The Girls' Development Academy is part of U.S. Soccer's global leadership position in women's soccer and connects with its long-term plan to improve player and coach development. The mission of the program is to provide education, resources and support to directly impact the everyday environment for clubs to develop world-class female players. Creating the Girls' Development Academy provides the elite female player with an improved player development model in which players can focus solely on training with the appropriate number and level of games. This model focuses on the developing the individual player within the club environment, which allows for additional training sessions per season to enhance player development. – United States Soccer Development Academy | USSDA​


What is the Development Academy?

U.S. Soccer started the Development Academy Program to improve long-term player and coach development.
After studying player development models domestically and internationally, U.S. Soccer collaborated with elite soccer clubs across the nation to create a program to provide the proper environment by emphasizing quality training and limited meaningful competition.

Why is U.S. Soccer creating a Girls' Development Academy?

USSDA wants to provide a player centered program that is focused on the development of the individual without bias, distractions, self-interests and financial gains that compromise the optimal everyday environment. US Soccer believe this is needed so we continue to set the standard for world-class players.

When will the Girls' Development Academy begin and what are the season dates?

The first year of competition for the Program will begin in the fall of 2017. In the Girls Development Academy’s inaugural season, there will be 70 clubs across the United States participating. California Thorns FC is honored to be one of the five clubs in the Bay Area selected to be part of the Academy.

What are some of the benefits of playing for the California Thorns FC in the Girls' Development Academy?

The Academy's elite training environment promotes increased technical standards and allows for greater accountability for players and coaches. California Thorns FC will be led by former US National Team World Cup star Brandi Chastain along with fellow teammates Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner. Nationally recognized College Coach Tina Estrada will be leading a team along with Denmark’s World Cup Veteran Mikka Eriksen. The Thorns program in conjunction with the USSDA is creating the next progression of girl’s youth soccer. Female leaders empowering and guiding future leaders both on and off the field.

How does playing in the Girls' Development Academy help a player accelerate their development?

By participating in the Academy, a player will have substantially more hours on the training field focused on refining technique and tactical understanding. With a minimum of four training sessions per week, there is significant opportunity to work on technique and receive instruction from coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors as part of a continuous seasonal plan for the players' development.

What criteria will be used to select the clubs that will be part of the Girls' Development Academy?

The Academy will use the following criteria when evaluating the application of each club for membership:

  • Leadership of the club and quality of the coaching staff
  • Desire to embrace and promote the core values of the program
  • U.S. Soccer license levels of coaching staff
  • Infrastructure of the club and the resources currently being invested in development (facilities, scholarships, staff to player ratio, etc.)
  • History of player production for youth National Teams, the Women's National Team, and professional leagues
  • Market with player depth, geographic location, proximity to other elite clubs and travel implications

Does an Academy club have to field a team at all age groups?

Yes, clubs must have a team at all four age groups U-14, U-15, U-16/17, and U-18/19.

Will coaches have a license requirement? What license level? Starting when?

U.S. Soccer strongly believes that the quality of coaching has a direct impact on the quality of player development; therefore, the Girls' Development Academy will have a minimum license for all coaches to coach in the Academy. Similar to the process for the Boys Academy, U.S. Soccer will communicate timelines and expectations based on the analysis of the applications and the current license levels for the coaches. Clubs will be provided with a clear pathway to meet minimum license standards and expectations during the projected timeline. The future goal is for each Academy coach to hold a minimum of a USSF B license and for each Girls' Academy Director to hold a USSF A license. We understand that many coaches do not currently hold the desired minimum license; therefore, we will provide coaches time to meet the minimum requirements with the new U.S. Soccer license structure.


The Academy will provide the appropriate game to rest ratio and players will not be allowed to play simultaneously in the Academy and in outside competition, e.g. scholastic soccer. The Academy will maintain a 10-month program schedule to provide players with the optimal everyday environment.

How does a player tryout for the California Thorns FC?

For information on tryouts and evaluations, please register click here or, email us at

How many players will be on a California Thorns FC roster?

As a combined age group, players are encouraged to play up and clubs will have groups of players that they will move up and move freely among age groups within their Academy program. The projected pool would equate to approximately 18-23 players per age group (U-14, U15, U-16/17, and U-18/19).


What are the substitution rules?

The rules governing games in the Girls' Development Academy match the rules that govern soccer games around the world (FIFA). For example, allowing substitutes to re-enter a match, which is common in high school, club soccer, and collegiate soccer, is not allowed anywhere else in the world, thus the Girls' Academy will align with the rules governing the world's game.

How many games are played and how long is the Academy season? How many showcases are hosted per year?

Each Academy team plays approximately 25-30 league games, with an additional 6-9 games played at Showcases.
​Teams that advance from the Academy Playoffs could expect to play up to an additional 3 games. The season will likely begin in September and commence with Championships in July. Clubs will break from league play for periods of rest (including inactivity due to weather), during a winter break (December/January) and/or following the end of the regular season (July).​