Major League Soccer allows clubs to create a clear path from amateur soccer to the professional league while retaining the rights to the players that they help develop. The Academy’s top players in each age group will be identified as Homegrown Players after spending 12 months in the program. A Homegrown Player who is talented enough to play in MLS has the ability to sign a Generation Adidas contract for his hometown club and not be placed in the MLS SuperDraft.
The Colorado Rapids Academy was formed in accordance with Major League Soccer’s 2006 Homegrown Player Initiative. The Academy program is designed to identify and develop players that can ultimately play meaningful minutes for the Colorado Rapids first team.
Launched in the spring of 2007, the Academy initially participated in the Super Y League. In August of 2007, the Rapids Soccer Academy was accepted as a charter member of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, a nationwide youth development initiative, organized by the U.S. Soccer Federation, created to enhance the development of the country’s top players through high technical standards and a focus on meaningful competition
In February 2013, the Rapids announced that the Development Academy teams would be fully funded by the club. The Rapids’ program includes Development Academy teams at the U-13, U-14, U-15, U-17 levels, with all administrative, coaching, facilities, equipment, travel and other costs covered by the club.
In 2020, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced the dissolution of the Development Academy. Major League Soccer stepped in to fill the void with the launch of MLS NEXT, a new elite youth development platform created by Major League Soccer in collaboration with the top youth academies around the country. MLS NEXT ushers in the future of player development in North America. The Colorado Rapids kicked off its inaugural season of MLS NEXT with U-19 and U-17 matches against Real Colorado on September 11, 2020 at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park. The match was streamed to thousands of spectators to launch the new league.
For more information about MLS NEXT, please visit MLSSoccer.com/MLSNEXT.
How are the Rapids Academy teams different?
The Rapids Academy provides the elite player with a pathway to the Rapids first team in MLS and the second team in MLS NEXT Pro. Our Academy teams play in the highest level of youth soccer competition through the MLS NEXT League and Cup competitions. Deserving Academy players train with our professionals at the first team and second team level on a regular basis and participate in training and games where permitted. All training and games take place at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, where players have access to top facilities both on and off the field. Our staff has created an environment that affords each player the support and programing to reach their potential.
How many players are selected to the program?
For the 2022-23 season, we will form a pool of approximately 70 players that will be assigned to the U-14, U-15 and U-17 Academy teams as full-time players. There is no minimum or maximum number of players that will be selected in each birth year.
What ages are eligible to be selected?
The age groups are defined by birth years. Players are eligible for the teams as follows:
- U17 – Born on or after January 1, 2006
- U15 – Born on or after January 1, 2008
- U14 – Born on or after January 1, 2009
- U13 – Born on or after January 1, 2010
Players should plan for being evaluated based on the year they were born, not the label on the age group.
How are players selected for the Rapids Academy teams?
Evaluating players for the teams is a year-long process. Our current players are evaluated and placed on a team appropriate to their development. We also scout league games, host local and regional evaluation sessions, watch high school games and bring players in to train with our current teams in search of the top players for our teams.
When and where do the teams train?
Full-time training for the Rapids Academy begins in August of each year. Our teams typically train Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. There will be training and/or games played on Saturdays and Sundays each week. We have two artificial fields at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, which serve as our winter training home; therefore we train outside year round with our teams.
What is the schedule like?
Academy players commit to an 11 month schedule. During that period, players will participate exclusively in Colorado Rapids training sessions and approved competition. The training segments will be as follows (subject to adjustment): U-13, U-14, U-15, and U-17.
- Fall Segment: August – December
- Winter Break: early December - early January
- Spring/Summer Segment: January - July
What costs are associated with the program?
Players do not pay to participate in the Colorado Rapids Academy. All coaching, facilities, registration, travel, meals and most equipment is provided for the players who participate in the Rapids Academy. Players must provide their own transportation to practice.
Do you help with the college search process?
While the mission of our Academy is to produce players for our first team, the majority of our players will go on to play college soccer at a school and a level that suits their academic and athletic talents as part of their development pathway. We feel it is important to start the college search process early. The club provides educational sessions for our players beginning with the U-15 teams. These sessions are age group/grade level specific and are made available to all of our high school age groups. In addition, our staff is in constant communication with college coaches. We are in the unique position of not only sending players off to college, but we are also monitoring players for summer training programs and the MLS SuperDraft. The relationships built with college coaches through this process ultimately benefit all of the players in our program.