Despite its humble beginnings, Major League Soccer (MLS) has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last 15 years. Ignited by David Beckham’s infamous transfer to the La Galaxy in 2007, the league has grown in popularity, attracted some of the sport’s biggest names and has built solid foundations through the development of youth academies.

Although the MLS has burst onto the global scene in recent years, those who are not clued up on the competition will still question: “How do the fundamentals of soccer’s youth system differ from English football?”

New York Red Bulls’ Senior Director of Youth Programs and Academy Business Operations, David Jervis, has been involved with the club for almost 20 years. His role, which involves overseeing all of the Red Bulls’ youth and academy operations, sees him work with ’tens of thousands of kids’ every year, meaning few have had a greater influence on youth soccer’s evolution in the States.

Speaking to UCFB as part of the recent New York Virtual Summit, David revealed how the Red Bulls have worked with local soccer leagues and companies to develop the game at grassroots level.

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David spoke about growing youth soccer in the USA at our New York Virtual Summit.

He said: “As a professional team, we are responsible for driving the game of soccer and raising the standards within the whole of the New York and New Jersey areas.

“We want to be friends with everybody because we realise if a league like EDP (Soccer) improves by 10 per-cent, it will increase the number of players, and it will also increase the quality.

Creating an environment where players of all ages can gain access to the right resources and develop is crucial in upholding soccer’s growing reputation in America, and Jervis believes it is important that professional outfits such as the Red Bulls are "there to support the whole community” in achieving this goal.

Jervis added: “What a lot of the leagues and clubs are lacking is the technical understanding, the infrastructure, and the coaching staff. Where we come in is to really enhance them from a coaching and a technical standpoint, and to help them more on that side of what they do.”

The MLS is a unique competition in that it utilises a SuperDraft, an annual college draft which allows clubs to sign senior college players to their first-team roster, with picks determined by an MLS side’s final league position. Despite its popularity, the draft has previously limited the amount of progression opportunities available to MLS academy players, though this is something which Jervis says is no longer the case.

“Ten years ago, not many clubs were signing players out of their academy,” explained Jervis.

“This was partly to do with the rules within Major League Soccer, so although you’d spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on your academy system, you could only sign so many players out of your academy. So, in that situation, pretty much all of your signings would come out of the draft. Fast forward to now, if there is a player within our system then we have the first right of refusal to sign that player.

“They co-exist; more and more clubs are signing players out of their academy and then maybe one or two will come from the college draft.”