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AFC Lightning is proud to offer Development Academy for boys ages U12-U14. A U.S. Soccer program, Development Academy offers the highest level of competition in the United States for players who are committed to taking the steps to become an elite level player. Development Academy offers a number of advantages including professionally filmed games with HUDL analysis to dissect individual or team movements during game play. This program emphasizes training quantity and game quality, as teams train 4 times per a week and play one game per weekend (ideally). In addition to this, Development Academy maximizes talent identification through the presence of U.S. Soccer scouts at Regional Showcase events, Futsal events, and league games; these U.S. Soccer scouts provide evaluations and feedback directly to AFC coaching staff, allowing for future development opportunities.

Another advantage of Development Academy is its stable and predictable schedule. Teams begin the Fall season in August and end it in November, with December off for rest and recovery. After futsal training in January, the Spring season begins in February and ends in late May/early June.  League games for the entire year are pre-determined and released to teams in August.

AFC Lightning is a proud partner of Atlanta United. Our Development Academy staff works hand in hand with Atlanta United to showcase and promote our players to the MLS program. Through this partnership, we are able to have Atlanta United scouts and coaches visit our facilities and work with our players. We have even had opportunities to send players to Atlanta United to train and work with their staff at their facilities in Marietta, Ga. Out of all the soccer clubs south of Atlanta, AFC Lightning’s Development Academy is the only program able to offer these benefits.

Below is a quick breakdown of what each age group offers and is expected when competing in the Development Academy program


- 9x9 game format
- Minimum roster requirement of 22 (for game, teams split in to two rosters of 11)
- 4 training sessions per week including strength and conditioning session at Elite Performance Institute (EPI)
- Futsal regional event held the first weekend of February
- League is all local Atlanta DA teams (ATL United, SSA, Concorde, UFA, NASA, Lanier)

- 11v11 game format
- Minimum roster requirement of 16 
- 4 training sessions per week including strength and conditioning session at Elite Performance Institute (EPI)
- Outdoor 11v11 regional event held in October
- League comprised of local Atlanta DA teams (ATL United, SSA, Concorde, UFA, NASA, Lanier) as well as the Carolina DA clubs (NCFC, ISL FC,    Carolina Rapids, Charlotte SA, NC Fusion)



Jon Williams

Boys Director of Coaching
[email protected]
(901) 828-2694

Steve Muccillo
Executive Director
[email protected]
(770) 851-1319



Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007. The Academy Program's philosophy is based on increased training, less total games, and more meaningful games using international rules of competition.

The Academy has recently expanded programming to include a Girls' Development Academy that will begin in Fall 2017. The Academy has 197 total clubs, comprised of teams across six age groups in the boys program: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16/17, and U-18/19 and four age groups in the girls program: U-14, U-15, U-16/17, and U-18/19.

The Academy Program focuses on positively impacting everyday club environments to assist in maximizing youth player development across the country. The Academy values individual development of elite players over winning trophies and titles. The Academy sets the standard for elite environments for youth soccer clubs nationwide and is a part of U.S. Soccer's global leadership position in youth soccer that will impact thousands of players.

What are the benefits for players?

Age Groups

The Development Academy Program features combined age groups where identified players can "play up" within the club structure, as encouraged by U.S. Soccer Technical Staff.

Consistent Training

Development Academy clubs are required to train a minimum of four (4) days per week and rest one (1) day per week during the Academy season.

Fewer, More Meaningful Games

Each Academy team plays approximately 25-30 league games, including 6-9 games played at Showcases. Teams that advance from the Academy Playoffs could expect to play up to three (3) additional games.

Our game-to-training ratio ensures our players are getting adequate rest. Teams may have one (1) or two (2) games per weekend based on travel, with no more than one game per day.

No Outside Activity/Competitions

 To maintain a focus on club training environments, Academy players and teams do not play in any outside competitions without written permission from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff. This includes any other leagues, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events. Development Academy players for all teams must choose to participate in the Academy full-time and forgo playing for their high school teams.

Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only two exceptions: U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Team duty.

The Development Academy upholds this rule because we believe elite players require world class environments. The Development Academy's 10-month Program allows for a greater opportunity to institute style of play and implement a system according to U.S. Soccer's Development Philosophy. It also gives teams increased opportunities for younger kids in their club to "play up" against older players in both training and matches, thereby accelerating their development.

International Standards

The DA follows international rules of competition developed by FIFA. These include no reentry on substitutions, the January 1st birthday cutoff, and players playing-up with older teams when appropriate.

Professionalized Coaching

Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors in their local environment. Developing a world-class coaching system is fundamental to developing world-class players. Education is a continuous process. As the game of soccer is constantly evolving, it is important that coaches are knowledgeable on current domestic and international trends. U.S. Soccer Coaching Education supports the Development Academy in its initiative to require minimum certification for all technical staff. These requirements can be seen below:

Academy club directors → USSF 'A' License and must complete the Academy Director's course
Academy club technical staff → USSF 'B' license (minimum)

Development Academy’s Connections to U.S. Soccer Resources

Talent Identification Opportunities

The Development Academy offers various talent identification opportunities for Academy players through both league play and at events. Since the 2007-08 Development Academy season, 19 Academy alumni have earned Men's National Team Call-Ups and 1,250 Academy players earned Youth National Team call-ups. Over 160 Development Academy alumni have played in Major League Soccer, with approximately another 50+ alumni at professional environments overseas.

League Play

The Academy connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy club is evaluated by a member of the U.S. Soccer Scouting Network at least ten (10) times each year.

  • U.S. Soccer scouts attended over 50% (2,100+) of DA games in the 2014-2015 season


  • Development Academy events are premier scouting venues for players to be identified for U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Teams:
  • National Team staff members observe every game
  • Domestic and international professional scouts in attendance       
  • Online player profile for all Academy players


The Scholarship Program is designed to provide opportunities for full-time Academy players who require financial assistance to participate in the Development Academy Program. For more information on deadlines, the application process, eligibility and program requirement, click here.

Sports Medicine

The Academy provides various resources related to sports medicine, including mandatory concussion testing, requiring a medical personnel at each Academy competition, providing U.S. Soccer Heat Guidelines, and offering secondary insurance coverage. For more information, click here to visit our Resource Center.



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