â€œWe want to be the top academy in the country. We have a club commitment to develop players. We have the training facility, our academy is fully funded. We see that we have a lot of opportunities here.â€
Orlando City (currently consists of over 2000 players aged 4-19 years of age), wants to become the leader for homegrown player development.
â€œWe feel that we are going to be able to attract the talent and develop them,â€ Orlando City B coach Marcelo Neveleff said. â€œWe would like in a few years time that our professional MLS team would be 70-80% with players straight out of our youth academy.â€
Youth development has become a major focus for pro-soccer, after the failure of the USSFDA (U.S. Soccer Development Academy), with the MLS announcing the MLS NEXT academy system last month. The platform will replace the DA system shuttered in April.
MLS NEXT advances player development in North America, furthering Major League Soccerâ€™s commitment to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway
Vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said the new academy system will include a welcomed shift.
â€œI think this is going to be at the end of the day, a great opportunity for everybody,â€ Muzzi said. â€œTo be honest, I think that that development needs to be driven by the professional clubs, just like the way it is in the rest of the world.â€
Neveleff will lead the Orlando Cityâ€™s efforts in the new MLS Next system. Although his official role is head coach of OCB, it is our understanding that Neveleff leads the entire youth development system for Orlando City S.C.
Partnering with Muzzi and f irst team coach Oscar Pareja, Neveleff is working to integrate the style of the MLS team into every level of OCSC youth development program.
â€œSometimes we donâ€™t even know what time it is,â€ Neveleff said in an interview with a local newspaper. â€œWhen I get home, my wife lets me know.â€
Neveleff and Pareja have joined the Lions after spending time at Texas based soccer development programs, Pareja was in charge of the FC Dallas academy, while Neveleff directed a youth club a few miles away in Plano, Texas.
The pair have worked years together. Pareja described Neveleff as the â€œperson who can glue us togetherâ€.
Neveleff said: â€œPareja understands the youth, he understands the coaches and he understands what the needs are from the young players, He has a good eye for talent and always a good word and guidance for the young coaches we have in the club.â€
The academy is focused on development from a very young age, Neveleff has instructed the academy coaching staff to provide their young soccer players with proper guidance and the proper direction on how to improve as athletes and young men, cultivating their talent, creativity and individualism.
Neveleff aims for Orlando City B to play almost identically to the MLS team so every player is prepared to move up and sub into a match. It all feeds into the goal of Orlando City at the top tier, making the playoffs and winning future championships.
It is to underline that young talented soccer players can benefit a club even if they never compete at the MLS level. Simply because in recent years, MLS clubs have begun selling promising players to teams mostly in Europe (and even in South America).
Check out the list of homegrown academy players that left the US for an adventure in Europe
Neveleff and Pareja share a belief that all homegrown players offer a different edge and quality after rising through the club ranks.
Neveleff has a very good point when he states: â€œOur players will play for the crest, when you have a pro that is also a fan of the club, youâ€™re gonna have an advantage over somebody who is not a fan of the club. … Being somebody that was brought up in the club, we believe that those players will be defending the colors with more passion.â€