The Nashville SC Academy is getting ready to kick off its second competitive season, and the excitement is palpable around the facility at Currey Ingram Academy.
The 2022-23 MLS NEXT season starts Sept. 10, and the future Boys in Gold have been hard at work in preseason throughout August. With lots of new players coming in, including a brand-new U13 squad, Academy Director Kevin Flanagan says there’s a fresh buzz in the building during preseason training.
“We’re two weeks into preseason, and the energy has been very positive,” Flanagan said. “With young players in, there’s a lot of new faces around. We’ve got a lot of first team staff that come in and get around the guys. We have a lot of our leadership group in and around the players and the environment, which creates a very positive environment for players that come in. Our U13s are always fresh coming in, so there’s always a buzz around that group, which kind of permeates throughout our everyday environment. Overall, very positive.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2022-23 Nashville SC Academy season:
What is the Nashville SC Academy?
The Nashville SC Academy is Nashville SC’s youth player development program. As the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee, the Academy provides the highest level of elite youth soccer in the country. It provides an opportunity to for youth players to learn, grow and develop in a high-level environment, with the ultimate goal of seeing Academy players join the Nashville SC first team. Many of the players in the program are local to the Middle Tennessee area, but around 30 are from outside the area and are a part of the Residential Program, living with local host families. Learn more about the program here.
There are four age groups within the NSC Academy: U13, U14, U15 and U17
The Nashville SC Academy bases its approach on The NSC Way: Resourceful, Resilient, Competitive, United, Thoughtful, Sustainable.
What is MLS NEXT?
MLS NEXT is Major League Soccer’s national academy structure, featuring 133 clubs and 590 teams across the U.S. and Canada. MLS NEXT provides the best player development experience in North America. Founded on a collaborative approach to governance and a commitment to innovation, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest levels of competition and to training to prepare them for their futures, both in soccer and in life.
How does the Nashville SC Academy season work?
The MLS NEXT season runs from September through June. The teams will play regular season matches from September through November before playing in qualifiers for the Generation adidas Cup, an annual spring event that pits MLS NEXT academies against clubs from around the world. After a break in December, the regular season kicks off again until the GA Cup in April.
In May, the MLS FLEX event gives teams the chance to qualify for the MLS NEXT Playoffs, which take place in June.
How did the Academy do in Year One?
The Academy staff was buoyant about how the Academy performed in its inaugural season. Lead Coach Alan O’Connor said the most important thing learned was the standards needed to succeed at a level like MLS NEXT.
“On the field, we’re playing at the highest level nationally,” O’Connor said. “So in terms of preparation, we’ve got to be at our best. We’ve got to be meticulous in planning and details, we’ve got to have the players and staff prepared mentally and physically. It’s really leaving no stone unturned in terms of planning and preparation. We've done a great job with that in our first season, but in terms of growth, we’re always developing, getting feedback and improving our processes.”
Flanagan also gave credit to the entire staff and organization for navigating uncharted waters and building its academy from scratch.
“It’s all about the people,” Flanagan said. “It’s all about the staff. We’ve got over 100 players in the Academy now. Last season we had roughly 90-100 players. The staff that we have make this the environment and the culture that we want. The staff were tremendous last year and this year, we’ve got a great team. The guys are in good hands.”
What should I know about each team?
“These players are coming from within a 100-mile radius of Nashville,” Flanagan said. “They’re a lot of local kids coming in, and it’s all new to them. What we’re doing is introducing them to the club, the culture, the environment, the methodology and the philosophies that we have from a playing standpoint. We understand that they’re being introduced to all these things and they’ll be pretty overwhelmed coming in the door. Some kids will adapt quickly and some kids might take some time. But we’re very much teaching them how to train, the habits and the standards. It’s brilliant to watch the young group come in and how fast they adapt and the energy they bring.”
“The 14s are a good group,” Flanagan said. “They’re our first group that we had time to identify and bring in as a collective group. They’re a strong group. All of them returned from last year. There’s a lot of talent in the group. Very exciting to watch.”
“They’re the first group that started with us as U13s,” Flanagan said. “They’ve been here for the longest. Another good group, exciting to watch.”
“They’re a combination of U16 and U17s,” Flanagan said. “That’s a fairly new group, a lot of new faces. We’ve got a scouting network that is country-wide and we’ve got some players in from California, Michigan and Louisiana. That’s a group that’s really coming together. That’s our largest group and it’s a group that we see competing week in and week out. There’s a lot of prospects in that group as well to look forward to and hopefully we have a player in that group at GEODIS [Park] one day soon.”
What honors have Nashville SC Academy players earned in the last year?
Last month, U17 defender Alejandro Carrillo was named to the MLS NEXT All-Star Game in Minneapolis. He played in the second half and made a crucial tackle.
At the national team level, U15 players Scott Cheevers received a call-up to the U.S. U15 National Team. Additionally, Andrei Jahic played with the Bosnia and Herzegovina U17 national team. Most recently, U15 player Charly Dealmonte was invited to participate in the U.S. Soccer U15 Boys National ID Camp in Chula Vista, Calif.
How can I follow along with the Academy this season?
Follow @NSCAcademy on social media for updates on the Nashville SC Academy throughout the season. You can find information on the schedule on the MLS NEXT website. All home matches at Currey Ingram Academy are free and open to the public for those who want to see The Gold Mine in action.