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Sources: Minnesota United planning “part-time” academy

The revised set-up would rely on local youth soccer clubs to provide the bulk of training at most age levels.

Courtesy Minnesota United FC/Twitter

A new look for Minnesota United’s academy appears to be on the horizon.

According to multiple sources, Minnesota United is planning to roll out a “part-time” academy format that would have players spend more time with local youth soccer clubs, training only in a limited capacity with the Loons.

In the model, players would train normally with local clubs, receiving “supplemental” training with United, likely a couple times a week.

Sources expect Minnesota United to escalate its involvement in training at the U17 level and create a reserve team for older players. But that reserve team wouldn’t compete in the USL, sources said, and would instead play a “customizable” schedule which could include international friendlies.

A source familiar with academy discussions said there is a potential for Minnesota United’s first team technical staff to be responsible for coaching in the new set-up, though it’s not certain be part of the final plan.

Overall, the program is expected to function like the Olympic Development Program, a call-up based system. It’s unclear how that would fit into the bigger picture of MLS’ new program.

UPDATE (August 5, 2:00 pm): Lagos will be holding a Zoom call with families on Friday to deliver an update. Academy families received an email notifying them of the meeting on Wednesday morning, before this story was published but a day after Minnesota United was notified of what would be published.

United fired all of its academy staff except for one furloughed employee in late June. On July 14, Chief Soccer Officer Manny Lagos told academy families to expect an “exciting announcement” in 10-14 days. That window passed with no update.

One local youth soccer club executive with knowledge of the plan spoke to E Pluribus Loonum on the condition of anonymity to protect their professional relationship with Minnesota United.

“(United) don’t want to pay for the academy, so they’re better off letting the clubs do the work,” they said. “(Lagos) had a vision of what he wanted it to be, which was basically putting the power back to the clubs, keeping the kids at the clubs for as long as possible. And not having Minnesota United compete with us but create supplemental opportunities.”

It’s unclear how a part-time academy set-up would fit into the new MLS developmental vision, or how families and local clubs will respond. At least 47 former academy players have joined other high-level academies around the country and would be extremely unlikely to return.

Parents have questioned how a part-time academy would fit with high school soccer, which was cleared to play this fall by the Minnesota State High School League on Tuesday. Local youth club leaders have questioned how academy “call-ups” would function and potentially take away from club teams.

Lagos was not available for comment.

Members of the youth soccer community with knowledge of the plan seem split: Some see the part-time model as a plus, since talent identification is inefficient and difficult at younger age levels and more players will be exposed to United’s offerings. Others, though, believe players won’t develop chemistry within academy teams and won’t learn as much with limited practices.

This part-time academy model would seemingly be the only of its kind across Major League Soccer clubs.