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Re-Evaluating US Soccer's Residency Program

Expanding the program

Mike Matkovich, the Chicago Magic's Director of Coaching, believes that players undoubtedly benefit from their Bradenton experience, but says that identifying players for a program with so few spots remains the major challenge.

"The guys down there do a good job," says Matkovich. "Obviously you're always going to have success stories, your [Jonathan] Spector [who went from Bradenton to Manchester United], Adu, Beasley and those guys.

"It's the next tier guys who are the real test. Sometimes you get locked in at young ages. I think it's tough to know if you have the right guys. You're investing a lot of money in 40 guys at a very young age. How do you know if those 40 guys are going to pan out down the road? I think it needs to be expanded."

The Academy launch is a first step to expanding the Bradenton concept. Washington state's Crossfire Premier, which has joined the Academy, sent three players to Bradenton who played in the 2007 U-17 World Cup: Daniel Wenzel, Brandon Zimmerman and Ellis McLoughlin.

"I'm sure those guys in Bradenton do a good job," says Crossfire Director of Coaching Bernie James. "But we practice four or five times a week. Practice is practice. I think after all the years of playing professionally, coaching professionally, and coaching at the youth level, I've concluded there aren't many variations of practice.

"Where Bradenton has an edge is with all the international games they play and the competition in practice. In that way, I'm sure it's very helpful."

Chefik Simo played for the North Texas club Solar SC before attending Bradenton in 2000-01 and playing in the 2001 U-17 World Cup.

"I was playing youth soccer in one of the most competitive areas in the country," says Simo, who later saw action with the U.S. U-20s but whose career was shortened by car-accident injuries. "But at Bradenton, besides all the international games, we played against college teams and MLS teams. There was constantly good competition."