Minnesota United FC named Tim Carter to lead a new academy system aimed at deepening the state's youth soccer talent pool and flowing top players into Major League Soccer.
The academy system, expected to come online in 2017 with five boys' teams from ages 13 to 19, is another component of the club's ascension to MLS next season. It would be the third such development academy in the state with U.S. Soccer Federation accreditation, joining Minnesota Thunder Academy and Shattuck-St. Mary's.
Unlike traditional high schools, typical academy system schedules run from fall to the following summer, longer than high school or college programs and more similar to what's happening in other countries. The goal: Developing potential in elite players to improve their chances of continued play at higher levels, including professional soccer. Academic support is provided as well.
"Since MLS has been in business, one of the most significant things that happened is that MLS has decided to become very involved in developing talent for their own industry," said Carter, whose role as academy director was announced Thursday. "When you're talking to those moms and dads out there, the way I would say it, 'It's OK to be a dreamer. But you've got to have a dream; you've got to have a plan.' What we hope to have here is to help a lot of kids not just dream the dream but actually realize the dream."
Several aspects of Minnesota United FC's academy vision remain undecided. Carter hopes to house the academy at the National Sports Center in Blaine, where the Loons will train even after moving home matches to TCF Bank Stadium next season. Development teams for girls are also possible.
Carter brings more than 30 years of youth development and coaching experience ranging from the youth club level, to NCAA to MLS. For the past 10 years, he was the director of the Boys' Soccer Center of Excellence and head of the U-18 Development Academy team at Faribault-based Shattuck-St. Mary's.
"Hiring Tim signifies that we are starting the process of creating a vision for what makes sense for Minnesota United," United FC Sporting Director Manny Lagos said. Asked to expand on that vision, Lagos said, "I don't think it makes sense to pigeonhole ourselves right now. This is a global initiative and we have to get it right because it's the only way for us to be successful."
Similar to Shattuck-St. Mary's, the private school also known for producing top hockey players, and the Minnesota Thunder Academy, Minnesota United FC's new academy system is expected to be granted development academy status from the USSF. All MLS teams are required to operate a youth development academy, and to do so under the USSF banner.
Carter joined the professional soccer ranks in 2001 as the Chicago Fire's director of player development. He then split duties as assistant coach and director of youth development with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, before taking over as the team's head coach halfway through the 2002 season.
He initially came to Minnesota in 2003 when he joined the Thunder's coaching staff, taking a similar dual role as he did with the Riverhounds, before starting the Shattuck-St. Mary's program in 2005.
Fostering player development is critical in a midsize population area such as the Twin Cities. One or two top players would find their way without an development academy model, Carter said, "but that wouldn't be enough, especially in the current climate right now where everybody is putting a lot more investment into youth development and are laying down a lot of infrastructure."