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In a year filled with firsts, Atlanta United’s Regional Development School had another one on Friday when it hosted Georgia Soccer’s Olympic Development Program for games with its inaugural RDS Showcase Teams at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. 

The RDS Showcase Teams, made up of standout players from the Regional Development School, played against the 2010 and 2011 age groups of the Georgia Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP). ODP, run by U.S. Youth Soccer, is a national identification and development program for players in each state. 

It was a competitive match, but the goals set by the Regional Development School with this fixture went far beyond the score line. 

“We have high expectations for the players on our RDS Showcase Teams, not in terms of results, but in how they approach their development and performances on the pitch,” Director of Coach Education and Development Dean Atkins said. “The games against the ODP squads gave the boys an opportunity to impress in this regard and show us how they can impact games and perform at a consistently high level.” 

In preparation for this match, the teams trained together once a month over the Winter season since first starting in late November 2021. According to Atkins, training was geared toward requiring players to compete and execute at a consistently high level, as well as focusing on creating an environment in which to push each other. The teams made their on-pitch debut in a scrimmage against the Atlanta United Academy U-12s back in December. 

The U-12 head coach, Bruno Ramos, as well as Atlanta United Academy Director of Recruiting, Will Clayton, were in attendance for the match against ODP, and both were heavily impressed with what they saw from the inaugural program. 

“The future is bright in the state of Georgia,” Clayton said. “I have been very impressed with [the Showcase Teams] and the RDS. Very well run, and every coach is passionate about growing the game in this area. It is important [the Academy] scouts all soccer activity around Atlanta, and the RDS Showcase Teams are a great place to see top talent.” 

Identifying potential Academy talent was the name of the game for this matchup, and really, the RDS Showcase Teams as a whole.  

“If you’re a talented player in your age group, the RDS Showcase Team is a top environment for you to train and compete with other players of a similar mindset and ambition,” Atkins said. “On Friday, the level of play and the ability to transfer learning to the games was excellent.” 

The RDS Showcase Teams represent the highest level of Atlanta United’s youth training programs and serves as a way to evaluate talented players that aren’t currently in the Academy. This increased time and exposure allows the club to evaluate players in more depth, assessing training habits, coachability, reactions to adversity and get to know the players and families that little bit better. The RDS as a whole offers supplemental training, complimenting what players already learn with their club teams, but the RDS Showcase Teams allow top prospects to come together, put on that pristine, white jersey, and represent Atlanta United against many of their peers. 

“It’s been fantastic to see these young players compete in training and then go back out and recognize each other across the pitch when they go head-to-head with their club teams,” Atkins said. “Talent recognizes talent and we’re looking forward to identifying future players that can join and build off of this first year.” 

Year one for the RDS Showcase Teams is in its twilight, but before things wrap, the teams will come together one last time to compete at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in an intra-squad showdown. The annual RDS Showcase Event will then take place in late March. This will be the pool from which next year’s RDS Showcase Teams members will start to be identified, and the cycle starts again.