Inside the Philadelphia Union’s YSC Academy as it looks to enrich local soccer talent

Imagine waking up for your first day of high school, getting out of your dorm room and going through one-on-one drills with a professional sports training staff for an hour.

After a quick shower and change of clothes you start class with your peers, a 65-student group of some of the best soccer talent in the country. From there you learn all of the crucial academic requirements of a high school student as well as nutrition in a state-of-the-art kitchen, and a difficult soccer regimen throughout the day that stresses soccer mechanics and techniques optimal to each student’s strengths.

This is what the Philadelphia Union’s YSC Academy strives to accomplish every year, located in an area that serves as a hotbed of soccer talent on the Main Line in Wayne, Pa.

“How many kids out there are actually striving for excellence in anything, whether it’s to be a guitarist, veterinarian or a doctor? There’s not many,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “This place, this building, this school gives them an opportunity to do that. 95 percent of our students might not make it as pros, but this school will teach these students how to go on and tackle anything.”

Opened on September 3, 2013, the Academy has grown from a 33 student operation up to 65 students in just a few years. They’re currently only accepting young men into the academy, but as part of an upcoming expansion have discussed the possibility of adding a few young women as well.

“My son actually goes to school here,” Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart said. “This is a really unique experience. I’ve traveled the world a lot and the combination of soccer and school is a difficult subject to tackle and here you actually have it. The ultimate goal is to have these players play in Talen Energy Stadium one day and that’s on the mind of all of the students as well.”

Curtin, who grew up in Oreland, Pa., joined the staff at YSC Sports in 2010 and has watched the school’s development grow. He coached the Union’s under-18 team in 2011 and oversaw the Union’s inaugural class of under-14 players as well. Having grown up in the area and having seen so many other facilities across the world, he sees a difference in YSC Academy.

“A lot of times schools in settings like this aren’t really schools,” Curtin said. “[Students] aren’t pushed and challenged like they are here. I’d probably struggle [laughs]. I’ve been to clubs and settings like this across the world and the emphasis that school has on a student’s life here is above all of the other ones.”

Two of the Academy’s former students, Derrick Jones (Ghana) and Auston Trusty (Media), were signed by the Union as homegrown players this past season.

“If you can get a lot of homegrown players and people can identify with these players, I think it’s fantastic,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot of talent in this area and now it’s a question of getting these kids to show their talent and to do it at a high level.”