U.S. Soccer to end youth residency program in Florida

The U.S. Soccer Federation will end its residency program in Bradenton, Florida, for players under 17 years old this spring after 18 years.

Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley were among 33 players at the program who went on to play for the senior national team.

The program was designed to expose 20 top prospects each semester to high-level training at the IMG Academy.

"One of our main hopes when establishing the U.S. Soccer Residency Program was that at some point advancements in youth player development would make its existence no longer necessary -- we believe that point has been reached," USSF president Sunil Gulati said in a statement on Friday.

"Not only did the program develop a number of key players for our national teams, it served as a model for academies across the country to follow. With the U.S. Development Academy having achieved high standards in preparing our young athletes, we are now able to impact future American professionals on a much larger scale."

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy, now in its 10th season, has increased from 63 clubs across the nation to 150, with more than 10,000 registered players.

In addition, since 2007 every Major League Soccer team has been required to have a youth academy.

U.S. youth technical director Tab Ramos said both programs serve the same purpose for which the residency program was designed.

"When the residency program started, there was no development academy, there were no MLS teams investing in youth development and there was no particular training direction," he told U.S. Soccer's website.

"Most youth players at all levels were training twice per week and playing anywhere from one to five games on the weekends. Now we live in a completely different landscape.

"The DA has now been around for 10 years and players are taught to play, hold the ball and be creative. There is a clear 'training over games' mentality of learning the game properly, and more importantly clubs all over the country are investing millions in youth development led by teams in MLS."

Ramos also said the under-17 team will now be managed more like the under-20 team that he coaches, with "five or six camps per year."

"It's a bittersweet moment because the program has been invaluable for almost two decades as a critical piece of the development process for U.S. Soccer," under-17 coach John Hackworth said. "The end of the residency program signals the next step in the evolution of player development in this country."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.