To the uninitiated, the youth soccer structure in the U.S. can be at least a little confusing. Between youth clubs, MLS academies, youth national teams, and even high school, there are a lot of parallel and sometimes unrelated systems to keep straight. That hasn't always been a good thing.
Enter the Development Academy, a USSF- sponsored affiliation of youth clubs from around the country that includes the relatively new MLS academies. The Development Academy is meant to straighten out some of the overlap, and get the immense American youth structure working towards some shared goals.
As you might imagine, managing that structure takes some doing. In that department, one name every fan should know -- but many don't -- is Tony Lepore, the USSF's Director of Youth National Team Scouting. If youth technical director Claudio Reyna is the brains of the operation, Lepore acts as a deputy, making sure the thinking at the top is implemented at all levels of the youth soccer pyramid. With the 2011-12 academy season about to kick off, the blog tracked down Lepore to get his insight on the state of American youth soccer in the wake the change at the head of the national team. Here are a few things he had to say about the system at this stage of the game.