Austin FC Academy announced today that two new groups of players, at the U13 (born in 2008) and the U14 (born in 2007) levels, will join the inaugural Academy team moving up to U15 (born in 2006) level for the 2020-21 season, to pursue the dreams that the club has for them.
Those dreams include graduating select players from the Academy to the first team, as well as seeing Academy alumni taking on coaching roles down the line. But there’s also an even bigger stage that Academy General Manager Tyson Wahl has an eye on: An Academy player taking the field on a World Cup squad, maybe even in the 2026 World Cup co-hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Two new recruits will join 14 returning players at the new U15 level, with 19 players entering at each of the U13 and U14 levels. Though the majority of the players hail from Austin FC Academy’s designated area - Austin, San Antonio and surrounding cities - Wahl and Academy Technical Director Juan Delgado scouted the wider region (stretching from Waco, to Laredo, and to the Rio Grande Valley) to find players.
Wahl notes that the club’s widening net of contacts has allowed the Academy to discover talent throughout Texas, and yet, building the Academy started and continues to develop at home.
“Here in Austin, we've had really good local support from the clubs,” Wahl noted, “We want to especially thank Lonestar Soccer Club, because they have produced a lot of players that have transferred into the program.”
Wahl came to Austin FC as Austin FC Academy General Manager just over a year ago, and with the inaugural class of players, has learned a great deal about how to guide the incoming players as the Academy grows from a single team to three teams.
“I think there's a big transition when players go into a professional academy, just with the amount of trainings we have per week, and the demand,” Wahl noted. The experience of taking players through a regimen of Monday through Thursday evening practices and Saturday matches will inform getting the new recruits to, as he puts it, “get used to the intensity and the environment that we create.”
While the pandemic and its social distancing requirements have changed how recent training sessions have been conducted, they haven’t changed the mindset Wahl and Delgado have in developing players. They emphasize developing the mental, decision-making aspects of the game, and even though the team isn’t physically together at present, they’re definitely together.
According to Delgado, Austin FC’s training environment is one “where players not only come and train and go home, but reflect and think and take ownership of the process.” He added, “We believe this is a big opportunity for us to educate them in the game and to create this sense of club.”
Wahl notes that a typical training session goes for two hours and focuses on both physical and mental aspects of the game. “It's important to note that it’s not two hours of physical training. It’s preparation, individual player mentoring, classroom sessions where we talk through the practice, and really creating a learning environment. There's only so much you train at high levels of intensity. You can only do this for 60 or 70 minutes with high quality.”
The training sessions over Zoom are integrating video to help players analyze positional qualities and characteristics, and encourage players to reflect and develop their ability to adapt and adjust to what unfolds throughout a match. It’s also been about learning the playing philosophy the first team will utilize.
“We want to have a style that engages with people,” Delgado explained. “We want to take the lead in the games, have the ball, have good position and strong transitions. We want the kids to be the main actors, to give them the tools to be flexible and adaptable. It’s all about joy and people enjoying seeing the games.”
Delgado notes that Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff’s involvement in Academy training—an opportunity born of 2020’s unusual set of circumstances— has been crucial in bridging the Academy players’ mindsets with the first team’s guiding principles.
“I think it’s very innovative to have him involved,” Delgado said of Wolff. “In top European leagues, head coaches are so busy trying to win the next game that they don't really have the time or energy to have input on the youth system.”
The ultimate goal Wahl’s set for the Academy is graduating at least one player to the first team each season, but he also notes that MLS academies are becoming more vital to developing U.S. Men’s National Team players, especially with U.S. Soccer dissolving its Development Academy. That’s where the World Cup dream comes into play.
“Moving forward, I think the connection between the U.S. youth national teams and MLS clubs is going to be even tighter. I think they're going to rely on each other more to identify players,” Wahl said. Over the past year, six members of the inaugural Austin FC group participated in U.S. Youth National Team camps, reinforcing Wahl’s observation that the qualities that the U.S. team and MLS teams look for in players are aligned.
While rosters could potentially expand beyond what’s announced, especially after the league issues an updated ruling on academy roster limits, Wahl and Delgado feel that getting everyone on the roster playing time is essential to their development. Even as Wahl’s impressed by how far the Academy’s come along in its first year, he’s eager for what should be a milestone-packed second season.
“There’s a lot of talent here in South and Central Texas,” he marveled. “I think as we grow and as we get more and more structured, as our first team arrives, and the kids are able to see what can be and what's possible—and how awesome our stadium and our training center will be—I think they're going to really start to dream and dream bigger, and that's really important.”
Name. Position Previous Club
Charlie Reed GK Austin FC U14
Spencer Sanderson GK Austin FC U14
JJ Carrillo Def Austin FC U14
Jaedyn Walters Def Austin FC U14
Ayden Leiva DEF Austin FC U14
Jorge Hernandez DEF Austin FC U14
Aryan Sunder DEF Austin FC U14
Drake Fournier DEF Austin FC U14
Dylan Rochlen MDF Austin FC U14
Joel Vergara MDF Austin FC U14
Aidan Lopez MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Brody Box MDF Austin FC U14
Noah Calvillo MDF Austin FC U14
Misael Rangel FWD Austin FC U14
Fabio Urrego FWD Little Rock Rangers
Yandel Andrade FWD Austin FC U14
Name. Position. Previous Club
Christian Gonzales GK Lonestar Soccer Club
Jake Briseno GK Lonestar Soccer Club
Chris Avila DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Connor Gritzmacher DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Jahdayn Henry DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Mauricio Orozco DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Parker Johnson DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Tate Gutierrez DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Jose Luis Diaz MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Logan Vann MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Daniel Aviles MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Diego Zuniga MDF Barca Academy Austin
Ethan Fuss MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Henry Moreno MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Alexander Salazar MDF Rayados McAllen Academy
Arthur Santos MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Rahul Kuthiala FWD Lonestar Soccer Club
Rowen Wells FWD Capital City Soccer Club
Jacob Bell FWD Lonestar Soccer Club
Dillon Jimenez GK Lonestar Soccer Club
Liam Kalutkiewicz GK Lonestar Soccer Club
Ryder Atwood DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Jack Cox DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Shehram Hayatullah DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Kazra Seyhoon DEF Lonestar Soccer Club
Gavin Wolff DEF Atlanta United Academy
Luke Hawley MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Sebastian Gonzalez MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Joldy Diaz MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Abner Zuñiga MDF Rayados Laredo Academy
Darius Hardge MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Henry Clifton MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Johan Argueta Chamorro MDF Millennium Soccer Club
Milo Williams MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Nick Abeling MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Kaleth Jimenez MDF Lonestar Soccer Club
Jordan Rodriguez FWD Lonestar Soccer Club
Xander Duncan FWD Lonestar Soccer Club