This has been the motto of the Regional Development School (RDS) since the program began in 2018. Players compete against the best in the hopes of earning the Five Stripes on their jersey and further opportunities with Atlanta United.
From 2018 to 2021 a total of 21 players have graduated from the RDS to the Academy. This year’s 13 graduates have now been added to that tally (34 total) on the Pathway to the Pros.
The club first launched the RDS in 2018 with the goal of creating an ID network and pathway to the Academy. William Clayton, the Director of Academy Recruitment states, “The RDS' greatest benefit is that they help improve the soccer experience in Georgia at every level. The entire soccer community can benefit from their supplemental training”.
The RDS Showcase Teams were first piloted in the 2021-22 Season. Players received increased coaching and contact time ahead of potential selection for the ATL UTD Academy. The RDS Showcase Teams help allow Academy staff to see the best of RDS player pools, and this adds another piece in identifying players.
“The RDS network of players and coaches spans much further than our scouting department can realistically reach. Not only does the RDS help to identify players who may otherwise not have been seen, it also provides players an opportunity to train and compete at a high level in addition to their club teams” Clayton adds.
Dean Atkins, Academy Foundation Phase Director, echoes this by saying, “The RDS Showcase Team’s allow our Academy, Scouting and Youth departments to be able to see top young players more frequently and in competitive game environments. This is a big benefit, so that we can evaluate the players more closely and give them increased opportunities to impress and earn further opportunities with the club”.
Selection for RDS Showcase Teams is extremely competitive and roster spots are limited. Atkins states, “We’re seeing players that weren’t selected last year, motivated to put in the work, demonstrate their resilience and earn a place in year two.”
“Players develop at such different rates at these young ages, that we know a player can progress to these additional opportunities really quickly. As a result, we’re continually re-evaluating players in the RDS for those opportunities and stress perseverance. If it’s not today, keep working hard tomorrow to #EarnYourStripes,” says Atkins.