Even if you’re a veteran of youth soccer, you may be somewhat unfamiliar with the Girls Academy (GA), currently in its inaugural season.
Following the permanent closure of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in the spring of 2020, former DA clubs were in need of a new league. While some clubs were promptly accepted into the already-established Elite National Clubs League (ECNL), the majority joined the upstart Girls Academy, founded by a group of leaders from the Development Player League (DPL).
The Girls Academy currently consists of 69 clubs spread across seven conferences (Northwest, Southwest, Frontier, Mid-America, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast). The league is aiming to expand the freedoms of member clubs while working cooperatively with all stakeholders, from club directors to the players themselves.
Former University of Washington women’s soccer coach Lesle Gallimore serves as commissioner of the Girls Academy. She accepted the position in the summer of 2020, after the conclusion of her remarkable 26-year tenure as head coach of the Huskies.
What’s So Different About Girls Academy?
GA has some key aspects in which it differentiates itself from leagues with a similar level of competition. For one, all Girls Academy clubs must give their players permission to play for their high school soccer teams if they wish, ending DA’s controversial policy of not allowing their players to participate in high school competition. Girls Academy also uses unique substitution rules to encourage clubs to better utilize their player pools.
Girls Academy actively encourages player input in the long-term development of the league. This resulted in the formation of the player-led Girls Academy Advisory Board (GAAP), which consists of players who are elected “to engage in strategic initiatives that drive the long-term sustainability of the GA and overall advancement of youth soccer.”