Stephanie Romero / LA Galaxy

In-Depth: LA Galaxy Announce Girls’ Soccer Development Academy

On Tuesday, October 12, 2016, the LA Galaxy announced that it has founded three girls’ soccer teams ahead of the inaugural U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy season, and will be the first team in Major League Soccer to fully fund a Girls’ Development Academy. This is a landmark development for the advancement of women’s soccer in North America as funding is the major impediment for girls and women who want to fully develop their potential as soccer players. It is also yet one more blow to North America’s pay to play system which has hampered the development of soccer players raised in low income families. Because the LA Galaxy’s girls’ teams will be fully funded by the LA Galaxy, local athletes will be able to join the teams free of charge.

As this author has previously pointed out, there is no shortage of interest or talent in women’s soccer in North America. Since the implementation of Title IX (enacted in 1972, compliance required by 1978), female soccer in the United States has experienced explosive growth.  In 2014, there were 3,055,148 registered soccer players with U.S. Youth Soccer.  Approximately half of those were women, which means there are some 1.5 million registered youth female soccer players in this country.  This 1.5 million number excludes all those who do not formally register with U.S. Youth Soccer, of which there are many.  The growth of soccer among women has outpaced all other major sports over the past twenty years.  Between 1995 and 2013, there was a 93% increase in the number of female soccer players playing at the college level.

Each team will consist of 23 players from within a 75-mile radius of the StubHub Center, where they will play and train alongside the Galaxy’s other academy and professional teams. Three other MLS clubs will be fielding girls’ teams in the inaugural USSDA season: FC Dallas, the San Jose Earthquakes and future MLS expansion team LAFC.

However, it is unlikely that this announcement portends an LA Galaxy NWSL franchise in the near future. The LA Galaxy previously invested in a women’s soccer franchise, the LA Sol, which lost considerable money for its ownership, AEG and Blue Star, LLC. During its only season, the LA Sol was actually successful by the standards of the Women’s Professional Soccer League: with Brazilian superstar Marta and U.S. Women’s National Team defender Shannon Boxx on its roster, the LA Sol won the Supporter’s Shield in 2009. The team folded shortly thereafter.

For fans of female soccer, though, there is every chance that the new MLS team in Los Angeles, LAFC, will bring an NWSL franchise to Los Angeles. Mia Hamm, USWNT legend and part-owner of LAFC, has already indicated that she would like LAFC to eventually have an NWSL franchise. A number of other ownership groups are also in negotiations with the NWSL about potential franchises, including Real Salt Lake, NYCFC and FC Dallas of MLS, Indy Eleven of NASL, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Sacramento Republic of USL Pro and an independent team in Atlanta. The NWSL has announced it plans to expand to 14 teams by 2020. MLS Commissioner Don Garber recently said that as many as half of MLS’ teams could be running NWSL franchises in the near future.

The LA Galaxy’s U-14/15, U-16/17 and U-18/19 sides will help kick off the 2017-18 Development Academy season, which will begin in fall 2017.