Next Up: Exciting Start to the New Year

Next Up Jan

After a much-needed break during the holidays, the Academy resumed activities in January with an exciting agenda that included a visit from U.S. National Team Legend Clint Dempsey and the first-ever Academy matches at Atrium Health Performance Park.

Find out all the details in this edition of Next Up, your monthly source for updates on Charlotte FC’s Academy.

Clint Dempsey Visits the Academy

Last month, the Academy players had the privilege of hosting CLTFC captain and midfielder Ashley Westwood, who shared his story of resilience and perseverance in reaching the pinnacle of Premier League football.

Continuing the tradition of inviting former pros to impart wisdom to the next generation, Clint Dempsey followed suit. Hailing from a small Texas town, Dempsey ascended from college soccer to the Premier League, becoming the joint all-time leading scorer for the USMNT.

“It’s a big resource to be able to hear from someone that sounds like them and has a similar background but has represented clubs at the MLS level and also represented their country in three World Cups,” said U-15 head coach Torrey Stricklin. “It’s someone they can relate to and someone that's gone over to Europe and been successful at some big clubs in the Premier League. However, I think the thing that was probably most relatable to them is the amount of adversity he had to go through to get to those places and his mentality.”

Against all odds, Dempsey reached the highest levels of play in the world in a time where professional academies didn’t exist, and the United States was still very much a minnow on the global scale. He touched on the mentality it takes to reach the top level, demonstrating for the Academy players to not take the resources and opportunities they have today for granted.

Opportunities such as having a state-of-the-art facility and guidance from some of the top coaches in the country are huge benefits, but it still takes the same mentality today as it did for Dempsey in his playing career.

Defending the Fortress

Since the Academy’s inception, they have never had a place to call home until now. For the first time in the Academy’s history, they were able to host home matches in their own facilities and fields.

Atrium Health Performance Park has proven to be pivotal for the first team, but perhaps even more so for the Academy sides.

In their inaugural home matches, the U-15s and U-17s triumphed over Orlando City and Inter Miami, signaling their intent to defend their turf with pride.

“It was special because we got to come into the facility first and prepare for the game,” described U-17 Head Coach Jason Osborne. “Feels more like a pro. Instead of turning up in your dad's car and going out [to the field], you actually came into the facility and got ready for a game.

“I think there's a little bit more pride for the badge. There’s more to play for because it’s our home field. We have to protect the fortress like the first team does with our stadium. These boys have a home now, which is huge for us. Now when away teams come here, they come to our facility, so that makes a big difference.”

Building a connection and culture to a brand-new Club was always going to take time but the addition of a home for the Academy to call their own just accelerates that bond.

“You could tell that they're really feeling connected to the Club now, being here every day in a facility and seeing the progress of their development with the fields,” added Stricklin. “There's a real excitement from the guys about going out there and being able to protect something that's ours.”

What the coaches expect from these two groups (U-15s and U-17s) for the second half of the season is simple – improve with every match and remain undefeated at home.

Coaches Symposium

A key factor in an MLS academy's success lies in its collaborative network with local youth clubs. Recognizing this, Charlotte FC's academy prioritizes maintaining strong relationships with these clubs, fostering mutual growth within the region's soccer community.

To further this aim, Director of Community Engagement Dustin Swinehart and Academy staff hosted 35 local coaches at Atrium Health Performance Park for a youth soccer summit.

“We want to have really good relationships with all of these clubs,” explained Executive Academy Director Bryan Scales. “And so, part of that is sharing our ideas and hearing their ideas, them getting feedback from us and us getting feedback from them.

“It’s an opportunity to show them what happens here on a daily basis, which is different than the youth soccer world. This is professional youth development, so it's unique. It was good to open up the doors and have everybody come into our house and be able to see what's going on here.”

The Charlotte FC Academy remains committed to transparency and collaboration, aiming to enhance the soccer landscape for aspiring talents throughout the region.

USYNT Talent ID Camp

Another exciting development was Charlotte FC hosting the U.S. Youth National Team I.D. camp on the new turf fields at Atrium Health Performance Park. U.S. Soccer will scout the country for the best talents in the region and host these camps to further assess potential contributors to the national team. These events happen around the country, in all the different regions conducted by US Soccer as they look to build their national team pools.

A remarkable 23 players from Charlotte FC were chosen from the 2009 and 2010 age groups to partake in this event. The hosting and ongoing hosting of national team identification camps, such as CLTFC, represent another significant stride for the Club in enhancing its presence on the national stage.

Up Next

The month of February is shaping up to be a pretty standard one as the Academy will continue to play their regular season games as the road to Generation adidas Cup in April continues.