Rapids Academy 2015
Garrett W. Ellwood/Colorado Rapids

20in20: when MLS and the Rapids ventured down the Homegrown path

August 1st through August 20th we are celebrating 20 years of Colorado Rapids soccer, with 20 memories and 20 prizes!

For 20 consecutive days, we will look back at the most memorable, exciting and dramatic moments from the past 20 years. Be sure to visit ColoradoRapids.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram. Don’t miss the chance to re-live 20 years of highlights from your favorite soccer club.

Today, we hear from Snr. Director of Soccer Development, Brian Crookham, on the history of the Development Academy

How did the Rapids Development Academy come about?
Brian Crookham: I came in to begin the youth system in May of 2007. That was following a mandate from MLS that each club needed to invest in their own product through a youth development system. There weren’t a whole lot of guidelines in place as to how to do that, although the big carrot at the end was that them players could be signed under the Homegrown Player rule, and they would not have to be subject to the Draft, so they could come directly into the team.

When did the mandate come in to being, and what was in place before?
BC: There was nothing here before. This (mandate) was in the winter meetings of 2006 at MLS Cup that this passed. The club didn’t have anything in place at all. Literally, when I got hired, I had a cubicle in ticket sales and a note pad and it was ‘good luck’. The mandate said you had to have two teams. For that first summer (2007) we played in the Super Y League with a collection of players from various clubs. We basically had two weeks to assemble two teams when we first got there; at the time under-15 and under-17 teams. We did quite well, with the under-17s going to the national tournament finals in Florida that Fall, of 2007.

In the meantime, the US Soccer Development Academy League was formed, to start operation late that year and we were a charter member of that. At that time, we were accepted as a charter member and we began play in the Development Academy of January of 2008. Just prior to the Holidays in 2007 we hired Brett Jacobs to become assistant director of coaching, and we had two full-time staff with the group.

Where did it go from there, and how quickly did it get to the situation that we see today?
BC: We knew that we could not just rely on players turning up to our place without any prior training if we wanted the highest quality. We wanted to control our own fate, so we then – in the Fall of 2008 – started to develop individual teams to support this system on the boys’ side, so one team in age group. We initially had an under-12 group that was a mix of 11s and 12s. We had a U14 group that was a very strong group, and we had a U13-14 group that was a combination.

From there we just continued to build that out, and eventually built one team in age group. (In) 2009 we added girls to the mix so that we were not only servicing both sides of not only our youth piece, but the fan base, the participant level that we felt like we needed to effect. At that time we were dabbling in the alliance concept. So, 2010 that’s when that really became big, and that’s when Colorado Fusion – which eventually became Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club – came in.

That same year, we also had Downtown Las Vegas come into the alliance. That evolved to the four out-of-market partners that we have now.

Where are we now, nine years on from that initial winter meeting?
BC: We’ve got over 80 players that have played in college soccer that have come through this program. The main exceptions are the ones that have gone on to the professional game. (The Rapids have produced three Homegrown Players that saw first-team minutes, including Davy Armstrong, Shane O’Neill and Dillon Serna).

We now have U14s, 16s and 18s, fully supported and financed by the Colorado Rapids. The U14s have now played two seasons. We will be adding the 12s and 13s in the Fall of 2016.

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If you renewed prior to August 1st, you will have been automatically entered to win over $20,000 worth of incredible prizes! Prizes include: a trip to the 2016 MLS All-Star Game, pre-season flyaway, official team gear and exclusive experiences, concert tickets, and more!

Each day, a 2016 Full Season Ticket Member will be selected to win a unique prize. If you renewed by August 1st, you were automatically entered to win on all 20 days. If you renew on day 12 you are entered into the draws for days 12 through 20. AND you can win multiple times!

Purchase or renew your season tickets for 2016 NOW and be entered to win the remaining prizes in August. Click here to see a full list of prizes.

Today's prize is an Odell Craft A Brew Experience.