MN Thunder Academy: US Soccer Development Academy
The most prestigious youth soccer league in the United States.

MN Thunder is proud to be the only metro based club to be part of the US Soccer Development Academy.

The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an every day environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players. The Academy’s programming philosophy is based on increased training, less total games and more competitive games.

The Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy team is evaluated by a member of the Men’s Scouting Network at least ten times each year and each Academy club receives two formal evaluations in over 100 categories each year from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff.

The Development Academy is also focused on identifying and developing the next generation of elite referees. U.S. Soccer assigns up-and-coming officials to participate in Academy games at the local level and at national events.

View the US Soccer Development Academy Clubs

Player Development Advantages
Player Identification Advantages


Objective: The Development Academy’s primary focus is player development. Academy players are provided with the best opportunity to achieve their potential as elite soccer players.
Standards:  Academy teams are required to train at least three days per week and rest one day per week during the Academy season. Academy teams will play approx. 30 games per year. 
Member Clubs:  88 U-13/14 clubs and 79 U-15/16 and U-17/18 clubs will participate in the program in 2013-14.
Selection:  All current clubs applied for membership. Any club is welcome to apply, but admission is very selective. 
Teams:  Academy clubs must field 1 team in each of the 3 Academy mixed-age groups: U-13/14, U-15/16 and U-17/18. 
Age Groups: 

U-13/14: Player born on or after 1/1/1999
U-15/16: Players born on or after 1/1/1997 
U-17/18: Players born on or after 1/1/1995
Players can always ‘play up’. 

Rosters: Each team must have a minimum roster of 18 players. All players register directly with U.S. Soccer.
Format: In 2012-13, the Academy league contained  seven geographically based divisions. Each team played home and away matches against the other teams in their division, plus games against non-division opponents from across the country during the 10-month season. The top 32 teams in each age group advanced to the Playoffs, where they competed for one of eight spots in the Academy Finals Week in Houston.  In the 2013-14 season, there are seven divisions where each team will play a combination of a home and away schedule against each of the teams in its division.  In the West Conference, the teams play cross-division either home or away.
Cost: There are no fees for club to participate in program, aside from $8 per player and $25 per coach registration fee (2013-14 figures). Clubs are responsible for all of their travel and administrative expenses.

To maintain a focus on training, Academy teams do not play in any other leagues, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events without written permission from Academy staff. Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only 2 exceptions: high school soccer and national team duty.



  • More Training
    • 4 mandatory training sessions per week
  • Fewer Total Games
    • Approximate 30 game season
    • No outside participation for full-time Academy players
    • 25% Minimum Start Requirement
  • More Meaningful Games
    • Compete against top youth clubs in the country
    • FIFA Rules (i.e. no re-entry on substitutions, January 1 birthday cut-off, players participate on older teams if appropriate)
  • Top Instruction
    • Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer coaches in their local environment.
  • Connection to U.S. Soccer Resources
    • Select teams compete against U.S. Youth National Teams
    • Regular Game and Training Evaluations by National Team staff
    • Referees assigned by U.S. Soccer


  • Direct connection to U.S. Soccer National Team Scouting Network (NTSN)
  • National Team coaches evaluated over 70% of all Academy games in the 2008-09 season
  • Showcases are premier scouting venues:
    • 400-500 college coaches
    • 25 Professional Scouts
    • National Team Staff observe every game
  • Online player profile for all Academy players
  • Showcase games footage can be purchased
  • There have been more than 2,000 instances of players being called into Youth or Senior team events since the Fall of 2007 from 72 different Academy clubs.
  • Over 85% of graduates from the Academy’s first year participated in college soccer in 2008-09