Richmond Kickers News Release -- www.richmondkickers.com
Friday, July 12, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers are pleased to announce that Academy players Evan Fowler and Vaughn Fowler have signed USL PRO Academy contracts, becoming the first-ever Academy players to play for the Kickers professional team. The landmark youth development was made possible when new USL PRO rules began to allow Academy players to train and play alongside professionals, while maintaining their collegiate eligibility.
"We expect the Kickers pro team to play a major role in the development of the region's top youngsters in the future,” said Leigh Cowlishaw, Richmond Kickers Director of Soccer. “The opportunity for the region's top youth players to test themselves at the highest level possible is a major development and we encourage the most talented players to challenge themselves to reach these levels.”
Defender Evan Fowler and midfielder Vaughn Fowler began playing with the Kickers as U12s and recently completed their third season with the Kickers Academy. Representing the first class of cost-free Academy players in 2013, the Thomas Dale High School graduates will attend Longwood University in the fall.
Also joining the Kickers pro team for training and scrimmages is Academy goalkeeper Christian Alcorn. Affiliated with the Kickers youth program since U10, Alcorn was a member of the Kickers U16 and U18 Academy teams since 2009. Training directly with Kickers pro goalkeepers Ryan Jones and Ryan Taylor, as well as D.C. United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra this season, the St. Christopher’s School graduate will attend Williams College this fall.
“In addition to being cost-free, the other major advantage for the Kickers Academy is that we can place our players within higher levels of training and professionalism,” said Cowlishaw. “This is just the beginning and we expect teenagers like Evan, Vaughn, Christian and D.C. United's Michael Seaton to be an inspiration for the next generation of youth players in Central Virginia."
New in 2013, expanded roster sizes now allow teams to carry as many as five Academy players in USL PRO competition. USL PRO teams currently have a roster size of 26 players, and will now be able provide important exposure to a professional environment to up-and-coming talent. As the Kickers official MLS partner, D.C. United will have the option to use the additional player slots for their own Academy players.
“MLS has embraced this philosophy, embedding youth development with the professional game,” said Cowlishaw. “We too are focused on enhancing all aspects of our Academy program to find and develop the region’s top players. We are confident and excited regarding the future pipeline of Kickers academy players who will one day represent our first team and beyond."
In the past, several Kickers Academy players have trained and played scrimmages with the pro team including Haydon Bennett (West Virginia), Daniel Lauretano (VA Tech), Christopher Spates (West Virginia), Andrew Wells (VCU) and Finnlay Wyatt (VCU).
Players must meet several requirements in order to qualify for an academy player slot: they must be younger than 21 at the start of the current season; they can’t have competed collegiately; they must never have signed as a professional. Additionally, the player must either be from a club’s region, an affiliate youth team or from an MLS affiliate.