Joining MLS comes with it certain obligations and responsibilities that weren't necessary when the team was in the USL, chief amongst those obligations was a youth academy to develop younger players into better, more talented soccer players which can eventually be signed into the Timbers. This is a requirement for all MLS teams now.
So it really comes as no surprise then that the Portland Timbers FO would announce plans for the development of young Oregonians all over the state. In fact, what the Timbers have done is created something far more ambitious than most other youth development academies from other MLS teams that I'm aware of.
In a partnership with OYSA (Oregon Youth Soccer Association), the Timbers will establish six regional training centers in the cities of: Beaverton, Bend, Eugene/Salem, Gresham, Medford and Vancouver, Wash. Beginning in Autumn each facility will begin targeting elite U-12 and U-15 kids from their area to take in and begin training on a more professional level. From there the youth prospects will be signed to Portland's U-23 PDL team for further development creating a true "vertically integrated" system for children to advance all the way to the top should they prove strong enough.
"We have a deep passion for developing the sport of soccer in Oregon," said Timbers general manager/technical director Gavin Wilkinson. "With OYSA, we feel that we have created a model that will both identify gifted players and help strengthen the overall infrastructure of the sport at the youth levels. The ability to start developing home-grown players who will have the opportunity to one day play for the Timbers in MLS is special."
In other developmental news, the Timbers have also announced the Portland Timbers U-23 PDL schedule for the upcoming 2011 season. The schedule is as follows:
While we probably won't see a true youth prospect from our academy for at least a few years, this kind of system will be integral not only to the strength of our players, but also the health of our club. This is a very good thing for our team.