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Are the Orange County Blues starting an academy?

A new partnership could signal a big investment in Orange County youth soccer.

OC Blues FC

Last week, the Orange County Blues announced a partnership with the California State Soccer Association - South, a.k.a. Cal South, that the team says will "boost all levels of soccer in Orange County." Cal South is a major governing body of youth and adult soccer in Southern California, and their territory extends from San Luis Obispo down to San Diego, and east to the Arizona border.

This arrangement will feature player development, coaching education, and community outreach initiatives for both organizations, and will reach the over 200,000 Cal South members across Southern California. "Our goal is to structure the best professional soccer club by incorporating a youth development program that brings together the entire Orange County soccer community," said Head Coach and General Manager Oliver Wyss in a team statement.

So, why is this important? Well, for one, it signals, at the very least, the beginning of a major involvement in the youth soccer landscape in Orange County, which could turn into an academy network. And two, it’s a massive coup for the marketing and exposure of the club. Let me explain both.

Academy Beginnings - Up until this point, the Orange County Blues’ investment in the youth soccer market, in the talent and coaching aspect, has been limited to a PDL team, OC Blues U-23. This new partnership with Cal South helps the Blues get deeper into the soccer culture in Orange County. The coaching staff can expand their network of young talent, and possibly start to influence their coaching philosophies down the system. And when it comes time for an Orange County soccer player to determine his future plans, he now has a possible pipeline into a spot on the local professional team, the Orange County Blues. That's not entirely mapped out at this point, but it's an example of how the partnership may play out in the future.

Currently, six independent USL teams own or are affiliated with a youth academy: Charleston Battery, Harrisburg City Islanders, Pittsburgh Riverhounds,Richmond Kickers, Sacramento Republic FC, and Wilmington Hammerheads FC. Like the Blues, OKC Energy FC recently announced a similar partnership, and have established a PDL team this season.

Marketing and Exposure -The other important aspect of this partnership with Cal South is developing these young soccer players into fans of the OC Blues. Getting to know the Blues’ coaching staff and the players on a personal level when they’re involved in your program is a perfect way to inspire interest in the team and their upcoming games. It’s very likely that players and coaches in the Cal South system will have very easy access to tickets for any game, if not discounted rate packages. This obviously helps drive attendance, which as you know, helps the club succeed in so many other ways.

This partnership could reap big benefits for the Orange County Blues, and youth soccer players in Orange County as well. What do you think? Tell us in the comments!