Many clubs find themselves in a position where they must decide regarding the creation of a new team within their Academy, creating an alternative transition path for young players.
Take the recent case of Liga Revelação in Portugal, an U23 competition founded in 2018 with the aim of providing a smoother path for those Academy players of the Portuguese professional clubs. At this point, clubs had to decide if creating this new team would be the best strategy, financially and sportingly, with many of them already lining up a senior B squad at the time.
Alternatively, take the case of MLS NEXT Pro, created in 2022 for the reserve teams of MLS franchises to compete in, with most of these franchises competing under a different name in USL Championship or USL League One, finding different regulations and stimuli for the players, besides the difference of investment.
As a case study, we have gone through a recent project for the creation of a new team within the Academy of a European club.
The 1st step was assessing the situation, understanding the context of the Academy and club, the motives behind and the solution proposed. In this case, the decision makers felt that the current system was not serving the club's best interests by not providing a perfectly smooth transition plan for players less able to perform at this point (different from potential). Moreover, some of the dismissed players were shortly after becoming very interesting in their new clubs and it was extremely difficult to sign them back for. Finally, to execute the proposed solution of creating a new team within this age group, there were also several logistical challenges.
The 2nd step was to understand the problem in greater detail. Therefore, we analyzed the former dismissed players from this age group and also 1 age group before and after, in order to:
Remove the valuation bias of these players by looking into the historical ability of similar players becoming useful in the long term (same age group);
Understand the relevance of this age category as a transition point by analyzing dismissed players in -1 and +1 age categories.
Finally, as a 3rd step, a thorough assessment of the context and situation allowed for the mapping of different alternatives with quantifiable expected returns and also the timeframe for the impact.
At the end, the initially proposed solution ended up not being recommended, despite its positive sporting outcome.
At Four Nations Football Consulting, we assist those clubs that want to improve their Youth Academy Development, offering the possibility of carrying out different types of project, from the overall assessment of their youth football strategy to identify areas of improvement and propose best practices to implement, to the ideation of a new Youth Football Geostrategy, the Definition of a new structured Youth Players’ salary scheme or the Feasibility analysis a new squad within the Academy, which is the case of the case study presented.