20 MLS Youth Academy coaches join partnership program with French Football Federation


MLS announced on Tuesday that the groundbreaking partnership between Major League Soccer and the French Football Federation will begin its fourth iteration, providing 20 MLS youth academy coaches with world-class training through a yearlong development course which culminates with earning their Elite Formation Coaching License.

It is the same course and training demands the FFF mandates of its domestic coaches, but it is customized for North America’s needs and accelerates Major League Soccer’s collective expertise in youth development.

The program incorporates features unique to each MLS market allowing coaches to better serve their respective club with learnings from this continuing coaching education course. Created in 2013, the partnership has already seen more than 60 coaches graduate through the program to earn an EFCL license, including FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez, Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney, Real Salt Lake interim head coach Freddy Juarez, and Seattle Sounders FC technical director Marc Nicholls.

In June, MLS officials met with French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët in Paris to officially renew the partnership, which promotes an exchange of best practices and experiences in youth development.

Program methods include on-field training sessions, classroom instruction and development of strategic academy growth through seminars with academy directors and coaches from the various international clubs and federations participating.

“Major League Soccer is committed to becoming a leader in the area of player development, and the continued partnership with the French Football Federation provides an important learning opportunity and world class education for our elite academy coaches,” MLS vice president and technical director of youth development Fred Lipka said in a statement. “Since announcing the partnership six years ago, we have already seen its tremendous impact on our player development system, laying a strong foundation of expertise throughout our academies. We are incredibly excited to continue this process as these coaches continue to raise the standard of academies throughout the league.”

The EFCL program consists of three parts:

  • FFF course with a week of intensive field and classroom instruction at the Clairefontaine national training facility in France and an additional four weeks of domestic training in the United States and Canada.
  • European Club Observations – One week of immersion at an international youth academy at one of the following clubs: Inter Milan (Italy), Benfica (Portugal), Anderlecht (Belgium), Espanyol de Barcelona (Spain), Olympique Lyonnais (France), AS Saint Etienne (France), FC Metz (France), RC Strasbourg (France), FC Lorient (France).
  • Integration of the Program with MLS Academy – Creation and/or modification of the Club’s youth curriculum and evaluation system for the development of players

The program begins in Clairefontaine for a week of training followed by a week of European club immersion where coaches will receive rigorous hands-on instruction from club management on training styles from top to bottom of the academy. Following several installments of coaching sessions in the United States and Canada during the following months, participants will return to Clairefontaine 12 months later for a final week of evaluation.

In order to complete the EFCL program, each participating coach must secure a CSA or USSF A coaching license in advance of the final exam at the end of the 12-month period.  At the conclusion, all passing participants will receive an Elite Formation Coaching License.

EFCL MLS Club Participants

Current Club
Current Coaching Position
Steven Covino
Atlanta United
U-14 head coach
Michael "Ross" Brady
Chicago Fire
U-13 head coach
Joshua Neff
FC Cincinnati
U-15 head coach & performance specialist
Erik Bushey
Colorado Rapids
U-17 head coach
Kelvin Jones
Columbus Crew SC
U-19 head coach
Matias Asorey
FC Dallas
U-17 head coach
Gus Teren
D.C. United
U-14 head coach & academy technical director
Javier Cano Gallego
D.C. United
U-19 head coach
Alex Kuehl
Houston Dynamo
U-14 head coach & scouting coordinator
Victor Pastora
Inter Miami
U-15 head coach
Nicolas Gagnon
Montreal Impact
U-15 head coach
Rodrigo Marion
New York City FC
U-17 head coach
Samuel Castellanos
New York Red Bulls
U-19 head coach
Javier Carrillo
Orlando City SC
U-17 head coach & academy director assistant
Cody Worden
Real Salt Lake
U-17 head coach
Daniel DeGeer
San Jose Earthquakes
U-14 head coach & director of pre-formation
Daniel Lock
Seattle Sounders
U-15 head coach
Christopher O'Neal
Sporting Kansas City
U-15 head coach
Gianni Cimini
Toronto FC
U-17 head coach
Scott Howey
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
U-15 head coach