With its five-man coaching staff all laid off or furloughed this week, Minnesota United’s MLS-mandated youth academy is being reimagined and not discontinued, Loons Chief Soccer Officer Manny Lagos said Friday.
Tim Carter, director of the youth academy, was one of those let go.
The club will join MLS’ new elite academy league that is still being envisioned after the 13-year-old U.S. Soccer Federation’s development academy folded in April, citing financial issues created by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Loons’ academy has 80-plus players in four age groups. They have been told to train with their local club teams while the MLS academy league — and Minnesota United’s place in it — is being determined.
Other MLS academy teams have inquired about some current Loons academy players. Lagos said academy players will be encouraged to play with their high school teams this fall if the MLS academy league hasn’t moved forward by then. Decisions on high school-level sports are expected later next month.
“We don’t want kids to miss out on anything with training or development,” Lagos said.
MLS plans for its new academy league will let the Loons “figure out what the best program and pathway is” for their youth players, Lagos said.
Lagos, who became responsible for youth development as part of a management restructuring last fall, spoke Friday about a five- to 10-year plan. He envisions a club that he said is more “collaborative” with all Minnesota soccer club teams and one that adapts to the state’s unique conditions, challenges and “creates more access for soccer for all.”
The Loons signed their first “homegrown” player developed in their academy in January: 6-5 goalkeeper Fred Emmings, who was 15 at the time.
Lagos cited MLS’ 3½-month shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic for the decision to let its academy coaching staff go.
“Unfortunately right now, without any revenue from our local games and without knowing when MLS will get this vision up and running, we had to furlough and let some people go,” Lagos said.
Lagos praised Carter, who was hired before the Loons entered MLS in 2017 after he led Shattuck-St Mary’s School’s development academy in Faribault.
“Tim Carter is an icon in this field,” Lagos said. “It wasn’t easy. We are very grateful and appreciative of the work he has done. It really has been outstanding.”