The San Jose Earthquakes Academy is back. Safety regulations have been put into place, trainings have resumed, and the players can start working towards their first MLS NEXT match.
We spoke with Director of Academy Operations, Alex Saunders, to hear where the Quakes Academy currently stands with their return to action.
SJEarthquakes.com: The academy recently resumed training. Are there any limitations to what the players can do?
Alex Saunders: “This is our 4th week of training. We’ve eased into doing small-group trainings and we’re practicing two times a week with the aim to move to four times a week from October. The players are practicing in groups of 12 and we’re following MLS protocols which are approved by Santa Clara County.
“Other teams in the country started playing games, but in California, we are not near there just yet. Right now, we’re looking at hopefully resuming games in the next four to eight weeks, but MLS will assess that at the end of each month to see if that is the case or not. That’s where we’re at right now. Small-group trainings, no contact, social distancing and making sure our procedures are approved by Santa Clara County and MLS.”
SJEQ: MLS recently launched their new academy platform, MLS NEXT. What are your thoughts on the new academy league so far?
AS: “I think the program is pretty exciting. The opening event was great to bring in actual Homegrown Players who play for the First Team and in different markets. I think that was a great opening event.
“Right now, they have a great player-centric program to get the players to understand what a great opportunity they have. All the documentation of what’s expected of all of the clubs in MLS NEXT’s platform is very focused on developing and producing more Homegrown Players.
“From an operational standpoint, it’s been extremely organized, very professional and very detailed. They have a great timeline that they’ve been sticking to. They have a lot of resources and they’ve been taking a lot of feedback from clubs as well which has been great. They’ve collaborated with clubs on how to structure things and create committees at different levels in the program. And for them to say that the MLS academies are going to be driving this new program forward is great for us. They’re really looking at the pathway to professional soccer. Overall, I’ve been really impressed with MLS so far.”
SJEQ: How are players able to join the Quakes Academy at this time?
AS: “With safety being our number one priority, we haven’t conducted any tryouts because we’ve just started training again but we’d love for people to visit our website to submit their interest to tryout. As soon as we can do something a bit bigger, we want to hold an event to bring tryout players in. When we receive confirmation from MLS and Santa Clara County, we will reach out to these players and schedule an event.”