If you’re new to the travel or recreational soccer scene, you may have heard players, coaches and parents talking about the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, often shortened to ODP. But many newcomers to the youth soccer community aren’t familiar with what ODP is, or why the program exists.
So, what exactly is US Youth Soccer ODP, and what is its importance?
The Olympic Development Program was developed by US Youth Soccer (USYS) in 1977 to help facilitate growth and development among young soccer players, and to help identify the best youth soccer talent across the country. Many of the nation’s top players end up playing for an ODP club at some point in their youth careers, including over 90% of the United States’ 2019 Women’s World Cup roster.
Every state in the country has a State Soccer Association registered with USYS, with the exception of New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and California, who each have two geographically separated associations. Each association holds open tryouts once a year, with age groups usually ranging from U-13 all the way to U-17. Each state association head coach or State Coach, with the assistance of other top area coaches at the club level, uses the tryouts to create a player pool in each age group to make up that state’s ODP program.
According to USYS, the players are chosen based on “the four main components that make up a soccer player,” including: technique, tactics, fitness and athletic ability, and psychological component (attitude). The players that make up these teams get the opportunity to train with some of the best players and coaches from across their state, and to play against the top competition from other states in various ODP events.
One of the primary benefits of joining a state’s ODP program is the exposure that top players can receive from not only college coaches, but from regional and national team coaches. Each state association falls under one of four regions, East, Midwest, South and West.
Top ODP players from each region are invited to their respective regional camps, where the best of those players are identified for national camp, pool or team participation. The top players in each region also get to represent their region at USYS-sponsored Interregional Events, where national team coaches are present to watch the top players from the four regions play against each other.
Through participating in regional ODP tournaments and camps, players can be invited to the National Camp, where players can have the opportunity to be placed on their respective age group’s ODP National Team. Players in the older age groups of the ODP National Team get the opportunity to travel to face some of the best competition in the world.