MLS, France launch youth coach partnership

RICK FREEMAN AP Sports Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Soccer is sending its youth academy coaches to study abroad.

Personnel from teams in North America's top pro league will visit France's national training center in Clairefontaine as part of a 16-month program designed to raise the talent level throughout MLS.

Coaches from the French soccer federation will teach the same player development skills they use at the club level there. Material from MLS, as well as the U.S. and Canadian national federations, also will be in the curriculum.

"This partnership not only provides the league with a strategic relationship with one of the elite worldwide federations, but it also allows us to expose each of our 19 academies to the current international standard for coaching, managing and player development," MLS technical director of competition Jeff Agoos said. "Over the long term, this will help improve the overall quality of our young talent, and eventually advance our on-field product."

The program runs from this month through May 2014. It features two weeks of immersion at the international youth academies of top European teams, including Real Madrid, Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain, Stuttgart and Athletic Bilbao.

Each MLS club, along with the league itself and US Soccer, nominated one coach from its academy to participate.

As part of the arrangement, French officials will visit the sites of MLS teams to review youth academy procedures and help them qualify for their Elite Formation Coaching License, a top European credential.