To find Atlanta United’s stars of tomorrow, you can look to the Academy. On Friday night, the Academy coaching staff got a glimpse of the next generation of young talent hoping to join them.
Atlanta United hosted its first-ever RDS Showcase Teams event, bringing a selection of standout, local players from the Regional Development School to compete among themselves at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground.
The Showcase Teams represent the highest level of Atlanta United’s youth training programs. Players were invited to the Showcase Teams and divided by age group to train under the same conditions and principles as Atlanta United's Academy players.
“The RDS Showcase Teams were created to provide an opportunity to see top players in the program in a competitive game environment,” Director of Coach Education and Development Dean Atkins said. “This next step allows us to see young players’ mentality, decision making and impact in competitive games. In addition, the RDS Showcase Teams allow us increased contact time in training to build habits and introduce elements of the Academy principles.”
The Showcase Teams will have a total of four training sessions together before getting the chance to scrimmage against the Academy teams in December and later play in a regional tournament.
“By bringing together the top players in each age group, the RDS Showcase Teams provide an opportunity to train in a professional environment at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground,” Atkins said. “Players experience firsthand the competitive environment that our Atlanta United Academy players work within on a daily basis.”
The selection process was competitive. Teams are comprised of players who participated in the annual RDS Showcase Event in March. RDS coaches nominated participants for the Showcase Event from the pool of players at each of the programs locations - Doraville, Fairburn, Alpharetta, East Atlanta, Dalton, Marietta and Gainesville.
“While there is no set profile for players selected, some attributes tend to pop up across all those selected; whether that’s their mentality, technical ability and efficiency, or their decision making,” Atkins said. “Players have all demonstrated an ability to excel, but it’s also their consistency of performance, which has set them apart in their selection for the RDS Showcase Teams.”
With players having the chance to be recommended at the end of every RDS season, it will become a benchmark for local players to eventually take the first step on the Atlanta United Development Pathway as RDS graduates and join the Atlanta United Academy en route to developing their soccer careers. This strengthens the pipeline between the Regional Development School and the club in general, as well as highlight and help develop local talent in the region.
“In having a close relationship between RDS and the Academy, we hope to better prepare players for that transition,” Atkins said. “For those who don’t take that step, we want to continue supporting these top local players who will inevitably compete against us. Impacting players’ development, and the teams that compete locally, will only help Atlanta United and our partner clubs continue to thrive regionally and nationally.”