Soccer Watch: Austin Soccer Family Unite

I’ve written a number of times about the Austin Soccer Foundation and their work supporting soccer outreach in the area – scholarships and programs for at-risk youth, and training for coaches and referees, among other things – and in this time of no soccer, they’ve conjured a soccer event for this Friday evening, a Facebook Live conversation with Landon Donovan, who needs no introduction, and Howard Webb, who is head of video assistant referee (VAR) operations for Major League Soccer, after being the dean of English referees for a decade. ASF promises a “LIVE + INTERACTIVE + FUN” discussion, including a guide to local resources and financial advice from referee/financial consultant Luis Guardia, as well as the opportunity to donate and help local players and referees affected in our community. Friday, April 24, 8-9pm at “… Soccer will return …”

There’s been a lot going on this week on the national and international scenes. As I wrote last week, UEFA, the sport’s governing body in Europe, gave direction this week, as expected, regarding the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.

The Italian newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport reported that all 55 national associations have been told to end their seasons by August 3 to allow teams to be submitted for next season’s European competitions. That would allow a “festival of football” in August as the Champions League and the Europa League conclude. It appears that each league will have three options, in descending order of preference:

• Finish the season in full, presumably behind closed doors for a TV audience. Perhaps only Germany may be prepared to try this.

• Devise a reduced schedule, which could mean playoffs or a mini tournament to decide the championship and other league placings.

• Declare the season finished, in which “exceptional circumstances,” UEFA says, it will be UEFA who decide the placings for each league.

Here in the U.S., Major League Soccer issued a statement making three main points:

• The moratorium on games is extended until at least June 8.

• Various formats are being considered to complete the 2020 season, including pushing the MLS Cup from Nov. 7 into December, or even 2021.

• MLS is negotiating with the MLS Players Association on pay cuts.

Meanwhile – as you probably already know if you have a child playing club soccer – there’s been a huge upheaval in the youth leagues and the developmental system, as U.S. Soccer killed its Development Academy last Wednesday, April 15, and laid off a number of employees throughout the federation. The DA was one of the three major U.S. youth soccer leagues – along with Elite Clubs National League and U.S. Youth Soccer National League – but had already been suffering defections. Austin’s Lonestar SC, which fielded teams at each boys’ DA age group, tipped over the first domino in February when they pulled out to join the Boys ECNL, which launched in 2017. A number of girls’ programs had left as well, and in the hours before U.S. Soccer’s announcements, the ECNL announced a dozen DA clubs around the country joining its Boys ECNL.

One day after U.S. Soccer’s announcement, Major League Soccer “announced the launch of a new elite youth competition platform intended to provide year-round high-level matches for MLS club academy teams and non-MLS academy teams that previously participated in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.” MLS promised “elite competition against domestic and international teams” and “future potential competition opportunities for girls.”

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