Youth Football & Youth Soccer - A history, overview and guide
Youth Football & Youth Soccer is an essential part of the development cycle of any young and aspiring football player. Those who make it to the youth level, are considered to be showing enough potential to suggest that they may make it as a professional football player one day. Most youth football players are at an academy of a football club, where they learn their trade and are nurtured by the club with a view of signing them professionally when they reach eighteen years of age.
Youth football can be seen as a 'grassroots' level of football as well, where everything starts and the basics of becoming a football player are taught. In recent years, youth football has become far more organised in England with four main leagues being set up in 1997, as opposed to regional leagues. The two main leagues for youth football are the Premier Academy League and the Football League Youth Alliance for football academies to compete against one another, in a view of making it more competitive. Furthermore, a Youth FA Cup has been created that all academies participate in up and down the country, once again to increase competitiveness and so it can replicate the FA Cup for professional first team football clubs.
In addition to this, clubs are spending more time and money on their academies recently as they are starting to recognise the benefits of running a successful one. For example, Chelsea Football Club, recently invested millions of pounds into a new academy centre in attempt to nurture more talent through. In the long term, there are many benefits including less spending in transfer windows. Instead, relying on your youth products to step up to the first team when called upon. Sir Trevor Booking of the FA is a major supporter of youth football, and welcomes academies such as Chelsea's and hopes for more to be built in the future to help local communities, ultimately with a view on bringing back the sense of identity in football clubs. This provides further evidence that youth football is being taken more seriously than ever before.
Youth football is not just taken seriously at top clubs though, all football clubs around the country, however small they may be tend to have youth academies in an attempt to fulfill the potential of local talent around the community. Especially at smaller clubs, talent scouts from the Football Leagues often scout players at the young ages of sixteen or seventeen, in order to raise the ability of their academy team while believing the player may make it into the first team. This often means fee's are paid for these young players, which can be an added bonus to smaller clubs.
At the age of eighteen, the player will be considered for a professional contract at a club or face being released from the club. Those offered a new contract usually step up to the reserves level, a step above youth football where they mix and compete with much older players. However, the sad case for many academy players, especially at the bigger clubs, is that they are released and have to find a new club if they still decide they want to make it professional.
Youth football is changing and is becoming far more of a serious and expanding industry. Clubs are realising the need to produce good youth talent more than ever now, which is highlighted in Chelsea's multi-million pound academy. Youth football is becoming increasingly competitive with new leagues and cups for teams to participate in. Finally, the FA have set up many schemes in order to try and support youth football in England.