With 3.9 million kids playing organized youth soccer (more than any other country in the world), the US would seem a fertile ground for European clubs to find new talent. So of course all the big European clubs have academies in the US and all of them bring traveling schools with them when they tour … right?
Only Arsenal, Barcelona and Liverpool have any kind of summer programs in 2014 and of those three, only Liverpool has a fixed US presence with its Liverpool FC America partner club in North Texas, which recently celebrated 9 years of operation.
Paste recently had the chance to talk with Alan Moogan, program manager of the LFC International Soccer Schools, about Liverpool’s approach to its summer schools, North Texas academy and future plans in the United States.
Alan attended the Liverpool FC Academy from age 8 to 14, after which he transferred to Everton, where remained until he was 20, playing in the youth and reserve teams, including an appearance in the 2002 FA Youth Cup final. He also represented England at the U16-U19 youth levels, including appearing in the 2003 UEFA European U-19 Championship.
In 2004, injury cut short his professional career and he began coaching at the Everton Academy, where he took charge of the U-11s for two seasons before returning to LFC in 2009. He was recently named International Academy program manager, where he is responsible for the implementation and development of existing and new coaching programmes that are taught in Liverpool’s international courses.
Paste: How are the two five-day summer school sessions designed? Is there a skill assessment session so that attendees can be placed with players of their own level?
Alan Moogan: Our USA Soccer Schools last for 3 hours each day. We have 5-10 year-olds in the morning and 11-16 year-olds in the afternoon. Each day we have a themed topic to be coached along with skills challenges and small-sided games based around these topics. Our coaches are highly experienced and they will test and challenge the individuals accordingly, based on their level of performance in their group.
Paste: What can attendees expect from their time at the school?
Moogan: The children can expect to have a lot of fun on our specifically designed programme which will include activities and skills sessions that will meet the needs of the individual. Players will be educated in techniques such as passing, receiving, dribbling, running with the ball, and shooting “The Liverpool Way.” They will also take part in fun mini-tournaments with prizes, certificates and feedback forms all presented at the end of our camp.
Paste: Speaking of “The Liverpool Way,” can you give me a little more information about how that might differ from other soccer schools?
Moogan: We believe our LFC Soccer Schools offer something different and special. We want to develop the individual both on and off the field and improve them in the short time they are with us; this is what the Liverpool Way means to us. They will learn new skills and techniques and have fun with our inclusive program. We aim to promote communication, teamwork, and respect while developing key skills that will benefit participants in everyday life.
Paste: In what way do the International Academy soccer schools differ from the official LFC Academy in Liverpool? Obviously they’re only five-day schools, but do you scout for potential LFC academy players at the various international school sessions?
Moogan: The programs are developed to meet the needs of each market we operate in. Our sessions and the method of delivery are consistent with the way we coach at the Academy in Liverpool. Our key messages and values are vitally important to us, and we consistently deliver them on our programs throughout the world. If we identify talented individuals that we believe have the ability/characteristics to potentially be a LFC player, then we will log all the necessary information and pass it on to the relevant person in our recruitment department.
Paste: Apart from these short five-day sessions in Boston and Charlotte, can you tell me a little bit about any other international youth training or scouting that LFC does or is planning for the future?
Moogan: Over the last three years LFC International Football Academy has delivered programs in over 20 countries. We currently coach over 10,000 participants on these projects per year. We have a partner club in the USA, in Texas, and have two year-round International Academies that have recently opened in China and India. We have an extensive summer program which runs throughout Scandinavia and also deliver a year-round player development centre in Egypt.
Paste: With so many Americans playing organized youth soccer, the US would seem a fertile ground for scouting and given that the club has American owners, are there any plans for LFC to establish a more permanent academy presence in the US?
Moogan: At the moment we are concentrating on our junior club partnership in Texas and also the upcoming LFC Soccer Schools in Boston and Charlotte which are taking place whilst the team is on tour. We are keen to expand the size and scope of our current set-up in the USA.
Paste: While the MLS has a robust youth program, many American soccer fans feel that the relative lack of European-style academies (where academies perform as academic environments, as well as athletic ones) is inhibiting the growth of US talent. Combine this with the tendency for the best US players to go to college, some of the best US players are missing out on key professional development years. Do you think more US-based academies run by European teams might change this?
Moogan: We are very respectful of the US system and there are lots of benefits to the way youth football is currently developing. We are confident that we can play our part through the partnerships and programs we have in place. Our main objective is to provide opportunities in the US for young players to learn to play the Liverpool Way, taking the philosophy from our Academy and making it available to participants in America.
For more information, visit Liverpoolfc.com/soccerschools