The Colorado Rapids Academy has in previous years managed rosters for players U-12 through U-19. The club has evaluated this position and has ceased to provide full time programming for the U-12 age group effective June 2020. We believe it is our responsibility to develop programming that best serves the development of the players in our state and the community. Based upon our experiences and research, we believe moving the Academy player selection process back to U-13 will ultimately serve to support the development across a broader range of players.
The Colorado Rapids Futures Program will act as a supplemental training opportunity. Players selected to the Rapids Futures Program will continue to participate and compete with their current club team. The Colorado Rapids staff will identify and invite top U-12 prospects to join the Futures Program. The players selected to the Futures Program will be provided with high level training and the opportunity to compete with some of the top players in the state. The Futures Program is an open program with top players from all clubs across the Denver metro area eligible to be identified, invited, trained and ultimately selected onto Colorado Rapids Academy rosters at U-13+ age groups. Please note in all instances players will only be invited into the Futures Program with the endorsement and support of their current club.
We feel moving the talent selection process back to U-13 will ultimately serve to enhance player development in our state. In reaching our decision to step away from the U-12 age division, we considered the following factors:
- Players in the U-12 age division are still very young and far from maturation technically, tactically, physically and emotionally. Talent identification and selection at this stage of development is complex and inefficient given the players are at such an early stage of their development. The Futures Program allows us to delay the full time selection process and provide extended opportunities for the player (and club) to more thoroughly explore the players' compatibility with the Rapids style of play, game model training methodologies and the commitment required at the Academy level.
- The Academy program is designed to develop players for the Colorado Rapids first team and Rapids 2. These lofty goals require the player and family to be fully committed to the process. We believe young players should be afforded more time to explore other sports and opportunities to play with their local club before making the commitment to a professional Academy.
- The player’s home club will serve as the primary development and competition tool for these young players participating in the Rapids Discovery Program. We believe players spending their formative years with their local club will serve to increase the development and competition in the state. The increased parity in competition in the younger age groupings will increase the quality and value of each game played. This will lead to a wider base of players being exposed to quality games and provide a better platform for players to develop by playing with, and against, other high performing players. The current move to elite teams at the younger age groupings deprives many late maturing players the opportunity to compete and to develop to their full potential.
- The Futures Program will provide the Colorado Rapids Academy the opportunity to play a larger role in the development of more players from across the state without the club or player first committing to the Academy program. This gives the player, the family, and the club the opportunity to determine if committing to a pathway to professional soccer is in the best interest of everyone involved.
- The primary development and competition tool for player development will continue to be with their home club. The Futures Program and its curriculum will be designed to purely focus on age appropriate individual player development. The focus will not be a competitive game on the weekend. Instead, the training focus will be on the individual player and developing the appropriate skillsets for the player's future. The Futures Program training pool will play a small number of games during the course of a calendar year. The ability to carefully manage these competitive environments will ensure the player, and their development, remains the central focus throughout.
The Futures Program is a fully funded training program run by the Colorado Rapids Academy. What this means is that players selected to the program will participate free of charge with all costs (training, uniforms and training gear, facility costs and travel) being covered by the Colorado Rapids. The players will be exposed to elements of the Rapids playing philosophy, training methodology, curriculum, style of play and structure that is used by the Academy, which is considered one of the top MLS Academies in the country.
The Rapids Futures Program is an invitation only program in which players will be identified by the Colorado Rapids Academy staff and scouting network. Final selections will be made by the Colorado Rapids Academy Director and the Rapids Futures Program Director. Players selected to the Futures Program will receive an invitation along with registration and orientation information two weeks prior to the start of the season training cycle.
Futures Program player pools will consist of 20-26 players per training cycle. Player selections are for one training cycle at a time. Players can be invited to multiple training cycles in a season. Players selected for the program can, and will, move in and out of the Futures Program during the season. At the conclusion of each cycle, players will receive feedback on their progress and development from the Rapids coaching staff through individual meetings.
The leads for the Rapids Futures Program will be the Colorado Rapids Academy Director Chris Cartlidge and Colorado Rapids Alliance Technical Director Andrew Kewley. The Futures Program coaching staff will consist of full time Rapids Academy staff coaches.
The home of the Rapids Futures Program will be DICK'S Sporting Goods Park. The complex is comprised of the 18,000-seat home stadium of the Colorado Rapids and its surrounding 24-field, fully lit soccer complex, including 22 natural grass and two synthetic turf fields. Constructed and operated by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, the Rocky Mountain Region’s leading sports & entertainment company, DICK'S Sporting Goods Park cost $131 million to build.