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MLS and the French Football Federation Partner Up: Portland Timbers' Academy Coach to get French Training

Major League Soccer and the French Football Federation have announced a strategic partnership which will see the Portland Timbers' academy coach, Mike Smith, get French-inspired coaching training.

Mike Stobe

Here's an announcement we certainly weren't expecting, especially considering that MLS has never before partnered with anything French prior to today. According to a press release sent out early this morning, Major League Soccer and the French Football Federation have entered into a strategic partnership which will allow MLS academy coaches to get 16 months worth of French-European academy training. The Portland Timbers will be sending coach Mike Smith for their part.

Obviously this can only mean great things for the league. European leagues continue to have the very best academies in the world. Players from all over the world flock to Europe at very young ages in order to get world class training and development from world class coaches. If just a bit of that can rub off on MLS then the league will be much better off in the years to come.

Here's the full press release with all the details:

NEW YORK / PARIS(Monday, February 25, 2013) - Major League Soccer (MLS) and the French Football Federation (FFF) today announced a partnership that will provide MLS youth academy coaches with world class training through a 16-month youth development course and earn their Elite Formation Coaching License (EFCL). The FFF will host the MLS delegation at its Clairefontaine national training facility and guide the youth directors through the same program as the one it provides its domestic coaches; however, the EFCL program will include customized features developed by MLS, the United States Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA). "We are incredibly excited about this new partnership with the French Football Federation. As part of our vision to be among the top leagues in the world by 2022, we are committed to becoming leaders in the area of player development. This initiative will provide an important learning opportunity for MLS youth academies," MLS Executive Vice President of Player Relations & Competition Todd Durbin said. The program consists of three parts:

  • FFF Course - Eight weeks (320 hours) of field and classroom instruction
  • European Club Observations -- Two weeks of immersion at an international youth academy at two of the following clubs: Paris St. Germain, Olympique Lyonnais, Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, VfB Stuttgart
  • Integration of the Program with MLS Academy - Creation and/or modification of the Club's youth curriculum and evaluation system for the development of players

Each MLS club, along with U.S. Soccer and MLS, nominated one coach from their academy to participate in the program. Among the candidates are eight former MLS players, including: Danny Dichio, Luchi Gonzalez, Jovan Kirovski, Chris Leitch, Darren Sawatzky, Billy Thompson, Greg Vanney and John Wolyniec. Fred Lipka, the former Director of the Paris Racing Academy and the Le Havre Athletic Club, will serve as the liaison between the FFF instructors and MLS, U.S. Soccer, and CSA. Lipka will travel to each MLS club to review its youth academy and help guide the candidates through the sessions to obtain their Formation Licenses. "Through our partnership with MLS, The French Football Federation is proud and excited to be engaged in such a marvelous project. The expectations of MLS are very high and the FFF technical department is greatly honored to be selected in this area. Our commitment with MLS will be the foundation for concrete and great development between U.S. and French football, as it mirrors the long term friendship between France and the United States," said FFF Technical Director François Blaquart. The program timeline is as follows: February 25 - March 1: Session 1 at ClairefontaineMarch 2-8: European Club Observation #1June 2013: Session 2 & Session 3 in the United StatesSeptember 2013: Session 4 & Session 5 at ClairefontaineSeptember 2013: European Club Observation #2February / March 2014: Session 6 & 7 in the United StatesMay / June 2014: Session 8 at ClairefontaineJuly 2014: Begin Integration of Program into MLS Academies MLS CLUB CANDIDATES

Chicago Fire Larry Sunderland
Chivas USA Sasha van der Mos
Colorado Rapids Steve Cooke
Columbus Crew Billy Thompson
FC Dallas Luchi Gonzalez
D.C. United Nolan Sheldon
Houston Dynamo James Clarkson
Sporting Kansas City Jon Parry
LA Galaxy Jovan Kirovski
Montreal Impact Wilfried Nancy
New England Revolution Bryan Scales
New York Red Bulls John Wolyniec
Philadelphia Union Peter Fuller
Portland Timbers Mike Smith
Real Salt Lake Freddy Juarez
San Jose Earthquakes Chris Leitch
Seattle Sounders FC Darren Sawatzky
Toronto FC Danny Dichio
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Craig Dalrymple
MLS Greg Vanney
U.S. Soccer Marc Nicholls

What do you think of MLS partnering up with the FFF?