It may be the future of soccer in the United States or the death of high school futbol in California -- but it's here in Los Angeles.
Created by the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Development Academy is a super league of 64 of the best-known youth soccer clubs from across the nation and it kicks off a finals tournament today at the Home Depot Center in Carson to close out its inaugural season. It's a season that will be remembered, in these parts at least, for its clash with high school soccer.
The tournament is split up into two groups, Under-15/16 and Under-17/18, both playing in a round-robin format. The groups are made up by the eight conference champions that survived a 10-month regular season.
The U-17/18 championship is Friday at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. The U-15/16 championship game is a week from today at 8 p.m, to be broadcast on ESPNU.
Both championships and all of the placement matches will be played on the fields outside of the main stadium at Home Depot Center.
This morning's first match will feature Gatorade boys' soccer national player of the year Chris Agorsor and his U-17/18 Baltimore Bays taking on the Chicago Magic at 11 a.m. Agorsor, a forward, has a scholarship to Virginia but is said to be considering offers to play professionally in Europe.
La Canada-based LAFC beat the odds, and some of the country's best-known youth clubs, to emerge as Southern California champion in both age groups.
LAFC's U-17/18 team squares off against Atlanta's Concord Fire at 6 p.m. today. And LAFC's U-15/16 squad kicks off Sunday's slate of games at 11 a.m. against New York's Albertson.
The Development Academy was created in an effort to get up to par with the rest of the world in terms of cultivating young talent.
However, in California, the academy is known for putting kids in the awkward position of having to choose between playing for a soccer club or a school team.
Because club soccer is so popular in this state, John Hackworth, director of the development academy, said the federation gave clubs in the Southern California conference the option of scheduling their games during the high school season so the clubs could also participate in the powerful Coast Soccer Premier League.
"It's sort of unfortunate," LAFC director of coaching Rafa Moran said. "But we're just going to go with whatever U.S. Soccer recommends."
There will be Development Academy games played every day through next Saturday.