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New U20 academy paves path for professional soccer in Arkansas

ROGERS, Ark. — USL Arkansas is launching a U20 Academy team with Sporting Arkansas to compete in USL Academy competitions and the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) starting in fall 2024.

The U20 Academy team will compete in the UPSL schedule, friendlies with professional academies and college programs, the USL Academy Cup and other USL-sanctioned events. Open to boys born on or after January 1, 2005, evaluations will occur the week of May 20th, with top regional players offered positions.

“This academy team is just the first step towards helping develop a player pathway to pro as we look ahead to the launch of the senior teams in the coming years,” Chris Martinovic, co-founder of USL Arkansas and former youth club coach said. “They will be the first to wear the Club’s official name, crest and colors.”

Sporting Arkansas Soccer Club, established in 1998 and situated in Bentonville, Arkansas, is an Official Academy Affiliate of Sporting Kansas City. Professional soccer academies, including those in the USL, are increasingly using this model for their advanced teams.

“As the region’s most talented players reach their mid-teens, they are frequently forced to leave Northwest Arkansas to find the high-level competition necessary to continue their development and pursue college or professional aspirations,” said Scott Marksberry, Director of Coaching for Sporting Arkansas.

USL Arkansas is set to own and manage two professional clubs, including USL Championship Men’s team and a USL Super League Women’s team. The organization seeks to usher in a “new chapter of competitive soccer” in the state through providing players with professional grade connections and facilities, USL Arkansas said in a news release.

“With the combined resources and expertise of both organizations, these players will have the best possible environment to thrive and compete at the highest levels,” Marksberry said.

The team’s official name and crest will be unveiled soon. For more details, visit www.USLArkansas.com.

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