(St. Louis, MO) – St. Louis Scott Gallagher and Saint Louis FC are excited to announce a planned merger for the SLSG-Missouri and SLSG-Illinois Academy Programs into the Saint Louis FC Academy, pending U.S. Soccer approval.
The SLSG Academy Programs started in 2007 with U16 and U18 development teams playing a seven-month season. Today, the program has grown to 10 total teams between SLSG IL and SLSG MO programs that encompass U13 to U18 age group teams playing ten-month seasons. Due to new mandated technical standards taking effect at the start of the 2017-2018 season next fall, the merging of the academy programs will ensure the quality of player development remains at a high level.
"The soccer landscape in our country has changed dramatically in the past decade, starting with the launch of the Development Academy program by the United States Soccer Federation in 2007," said STLFC Academy Director, Blake Decker. "Spurred on by the rising technical standards of U.S. Soccer and the explosive growth of the 1st and 2nd Division professional leagues in the United States, the resources required to compete at the highest levels of the youth game have grown exponentially as the environment has become increasingly professionalized. The common thread among those clubs at the forefront of this evolution is a complete player development pyramid that provides young players with a direct pathway from the youth game to the professional level. The Saint Louis FC Academy will provide young men from the St. Louis and Metro East Illinois region with exactly that pathway. Furthermore, it ensures that we, as a region and soccer community, maintain our place as a leader in the national soccer landscape and continue our tradition of developing players for both the professional game and the United States Soccer National Teams."
The Saint Louis FC Academy will be comprised of the top players in the U15-U19 age groups and will provide a direct pathway for players into the professional game. Players in the Saint Louis FC Academy will have the opportunity to hone their craft as aspiring professionals under the direction of the highest quality coaches and against the best players from across the metro-area. St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois and Missouri will continue to operate integrated, but distinct, Academy programs from U12-U14 under the SLSG banner in Collinsville and Fenton, respectively.
"With the merger, we are now able to combine the very best staff and players together into one elite environment," said STLFC Academy Director of Coaching, Tim Lees. "This will undoubtedly prove to be a vital step in us competing on a national scale and realizing our mission of becoming the best club in the country."
The development pathway will consist of three (3) main components: talent identification for player selection; player development and education in a professional environment; and a clear link from the STLFC Academy to the STLFC first team to provide a seamless transition from youth to professional for the most talented players. This collaborative use of available resources will also have a positive effect on the greater St. Louis Scott Gallagher organization by allowing other high quality staff to train more teams, as well as freeing training space for the rest of the club.
The Saint Louis FC Academy will continue the tradition of holistic player development utilized by both SLSG Academy programs focusing on a complete player education, which includes leadership development, lifestyle choices, and the importance of giving back to their community. In 2015, SLSG Illinois received the "Community Award" from US Soccer Foundation for their work in building cost-free cooperative relationships with soccer organizations located in underserved areas of their local community, as well as their work with Fundacion Marajuera's "The Beautiful Game" project based in the Pacific region of Colombia. For years, players from the SLSG Missouri Academy have served as volunteer coaches for the Special Needs Soccer Association (SPENSA), which is hosted weekly at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, as well as helping to run an annual Power Wheel Chair Soccer event hosted by the Disabled Athletes Sports Association (DASA).
"This is an exciting announcement for Saint Louis FC and will allow us to continue and move forward as a club," said STLFC General Manager, Jeremy Alumbaugh. "During the last two years we have been able to have a strong connection with Academy players training and playing with the First Team. This move to strategically align SLSG IL and SLSG MO together will allow for an even stronger pathway to professional soccer for players from throughout the region."