The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15, U-17 and U-19 teams will compete in a new DA Cup competition and a restructured regular season during the 2019-20 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign.
U.S. Soccer announced the Development Academy’s revamped competition structure last Wednesday, unveiling a new DA Cup that gives Sporting the opportunity to win a championship in a high-stakes knockout tournament and qualify for the Playoffs next spring. In addition, a new two-tiered regular season format for the U-19 level will increase Sporting’s number of games against high-performing opponents.
The changes represent an important step in the Academy's evolution to ensure that all clubs have access to the most meaningful games possible, fostering an environment that maximizes player development.
At the forefront, the Sporting KC U-15, U-17 and U-19 age groups will play in the inaugural DA Cup, which will run in three stages concurrently with the Development Academy regular season to determine a DA Cup champion and Academy Playoff wild card berths.
The tournament begins with the Fall Group Stage, which will see the U-17 and U-19 squads playing in regional groups to advance to the 32-team Winter Cup. The U-15 age group will only participate in the Fall Group Stage and will not play down to a single champion. Sporting has been placed in the Midwest Group, with the top three finishers progressing to the Winter Cup.
2019-20 DA Cup: Midwest Group
The 32 teams advancing in the U-17 and U-19 age groups will compete in eight four-team groups at the Winter Cup, held in Bradenton, Florida, during the traditional Winter Showcase event. The remaining DA Cup teams will play three games that determine their place in the final DA Cup rankings, used to award wild card berths for the Playoffs.
The eight Winter Cup group winners will advance to play in the Spring Cup Championship, an eight-team knockout bracket at a single location to crown the DA Cup champion. While advancing teams will feel the pressure of a chance at hardware with each passing round, teams that do not advance continue to play significant games that can book their tickets to the postseason by improving their ranking to earn a wild card spot. More information on the structure of the DA Cup competition can be found here.
At the U-19 level, teams have been divided into two tiers in order to increase the number of meaningful regular season games for all clubs. Teams will play more games against similar-level opponents in the new structure, ensuring more competitive, evenly matched fixtures throughout the year. The tiers were split into new geographic divisions while maintaining like-for-like competition.
Automatic playoff qualification spots for the Playoffs will be determined by the final regular season standings, while the wild card berths that fill out the 32-team Playoff field will be based on the DA Cup final rankings. All U-19 teams, regardless of tier, will have the opportunity to qualify for the Playoffs (through the regular season or DA Cup) and compete for the national championship. More information on the Playoff qualification structure can be found here.
Tiers were determined following a thorough evaluation of performance history, player production and feedback from U.S. Soccer technical staff, with the goal that teams in each tier can provide each other the most consistently competitive games. Matchups between tiers will take place during the DA Cup and Playoffs.
At the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the new structure will be evaluated and teams may move up or down tiers for the 2020-21 season. Additionally, U.S. Soccer will consider expanding the tiered competition structure to other boys age groups based on data and feedback from clubs.