CASL, RailHawks join forces in academies

mblake@newsobserver.comMarch 6, 2013 

Imagine a local high school soccer player carving his path to the pros right here in the Triangle – all while never changing team colors or logos.

This is now possible as the Carolina RailHawks announced a partnership with the Capital Area Soccer League’s United States Soccer development academy.

CASL’s boys’ and girls’ academy teams will be called the Capital Area RailHawks when the season starts in July.

The RailHawks will help staff the academy’s coaches, and all teams will wear the RailHawks’ colors.

The franchise also agreed to fund the program for three years so the academy will be free of fees and red tape, opening it up to players in the Triangle and eastern North Carolina.

The RailHawks have already agreed to donate 10 percent of all their total ticket revenue for the next three seasons to soccer-related programs in the area.

“It’s definitely a rebrand (to existing CASL programs), but it’s deeper than that. It’s all of us coming together to pull resources,” RailHawks president Curt Johnson said.

“Right now, players have to pay to play, which everyone agrees is the wrong model.”

Tryouts will be in April, and the new teams will come together in August for the new academy season.

Since 2007, U.S. Soccer has designated about 80 youth clubs as development academies that can provide kids with top training to reach their potential.

The elite players will one day be considered for the U.S. National Team as development academies.

This past year, all academy boys soccer players were not allowed to play for their high schools.

The Capital Area RailHawks academy teams include the U14, U16, U18 boys and U14, U15, U16, U17 and U18 girls.

The girls were previously known as ECNL.

Area high school boys could conceivably play with the Capital Area RailHawks in high school, the RailHawks U23s during the summers of their college years and then get signed by the RailHawks as a pro.

“We should become experts very quickly on the best players in the youth marketplace – who could be a RailHawk one day?” Johnson said.

“Ten years from now, we’ll look back and we’ll say ... (the RailHawks’) roster is made up, in part, of kids who are 18, 20 and local elite players.”

Such development academies are growing with Major League Soccer, where teams sign “home-grown” players to special contracts if they have spent their youth career in the academy.

Carolina is now the only North American Soccer League team with such an academy, and the NASL does not have rules on what kind of contracts a “homegrown” player can and cannot sign.

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