Austin FC Academy forms, gears in motion for homegrown MLS talent

Austin FC wasted no time getting a youth developmental academy established. Before a single first team player is signed, Austin FC Academy officially launched to compete in the 2019-20 season.

MLS academy programs are an incredible opportunity for selected youth players to have a clear pathway to professional soccer, while receiving elite coaching (and families pay no fees for registration, uniforms, or travel).

The club first started with a U-14 boys team in 2019. Two other age groups (U-13 and U-15) were included for the Fall 2020/Spring 2021 season. Rosters for all three teams were announced in June 2020.

Major League Soccer clubs are required to operate developmental academy teams, but the number of youth teams can vary per club. A total of 95 clubs compete in the newly-formed MLS NEXT, a MLS elite youth development platform

According to current MLS rules, clubs can sign their academy players directly to their first team and these player contracts do not count against their salary budget. Each MLS club has a defined territory from where it can draw homegrown talent, usually 75-100 miles from the club’s stadium. 

Tyson Wahl was named Austin FC Academy’s general manager in January 2019, to oversee youth operations. Wahl played in the MLS for 11 years; most recently, he was the youth development director for the Austin Texans.

“Our goal is to build the most successful academy program in the United States, and our long-term vision is to make Austin proud by eventually adding countless Austinites to our MLS roster as “homegrown players.”

-Tyson Wahl, Austin FC’s Academy General Manager

Austin FC Academy trained and played matches at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School until it moved permanently to Austin FC’s St. David’s Performance Center in April 2021.

For some history, in May 2019 the club announced its inaugural roster for the U-14 squad:

In another historic moment, September 7, 2019 was the first time an Austin FC team of any level played a competitive match. (Austin FC Academy’s U-14 squad lost to San Antonio FC U-14 in a 4-1 score.)

Then Austin FC Academy formed U13 and U14 clubs (OG U-14 moved to U-15) in June 2020, adding 40+ new players to the club. Players had to start the Academy by training virtually for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July 2020, the Academy made numerous significant hires, including U-14 coach (Angel Rivillo), U-15 coach (Javier Cano), Strength and Conditioning coach (Alex Olivares), plus an Academy scout, and video analyst.

In November 2020, the club gained a foothold in San Antonio through a non-exclusive deal with Classics Elite Soccer Academy. Austin FC Academy will conduct a Center of Excellence training program for SA youth players at Classics Elite facilities. In a city previously untapped by MLS, Austin FC moved quickly to expand its territory in a new MLS Next world.

In May 2021, the Academy expanded to five age groups, with the addition of U-12 and U-17 teams. Austin FC Academy now features five (5) age groups: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, and U-17. Except for the U-12 team, all will compete in MLS NEXT, the youth system managed and organized by MLS.

“Having five age groups at Austin FC’s Academy in such short time speaks volumes about the level of commitment our Club has to local youth talent,” commented Claudio Reyna, Austin FC’s Sporting Director. “Our goal is to continue forming these talented players and offer them the best opportunity to develop their skills and support their aspirations to become professional soccer players.”

– Claudio Reyna, Austin FC’s Sporting Director

Boys age U-12 to U-17 can apply online to tryout for the Academy.

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