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FC Edmonton’s U10 academy just a small first step

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FC Edmonton has taken its first step in developing the academy, and more strides are expected in the spring.

The NASL side has partnered with the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association to begin seeking out talent for the U10 program. The club confirmed that U6 and U8 programs will be unveiled in the spring of 2012.

Right now, no Canadian pro club is developing kids as young as the U6 level.

“Our future vision is U6, U8, U10,” said team spokesman Andreas Morse. “Right now, we are starting with the U10 program. We will train the players, and EMSA will find the players for us. And they will find us places to play.”

As the players in the U10 stream age, FCE will then launch U12, U14 programs and up. They will let the players grow into the academy rather than pluck teenagers from already existing programs. FC Edmonton won’t ignore promising teenagers; but it will ensure that its academy will grow organically.

“What we are trying to do is develop a new system,” said general manager Tom Leip. “Really, what we have is closer to the system that you find in Europe rather than the academy systems you find in North America.”

And that is, that the kids are brought in at a young age — and that the parents aren’t asked to pay heavy fees to keep them in an elite soccer environment.

“We won’t link the development with the ability to pay,” said Leip. “This is not about what the parents can pay. We want to keep the costs minimal. We don’t want a lack of ability to pay to discourage a child from playing.”

That move will help the Academy ease its way into the youth soccer scene, which is often populated by parents and volunteers who don’t like the status quo being challenged.

Edmonton has seen various minor soccer associations squabble over the years. We have seen ugly boardroom battles and coups at the Alberta Soccer Association. Hopefully, with FCE taking a lead on player development, the squabbles will subside.

And, while the partnership exists with EMSA for the moment, the team has held discussions with Alberta Soccer Association executive director Richard Adams to see how far the youth development net can be spread. The club is negotiating with potential sponsors for the academy programs.

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