Pioneers Join USL Academy
The Western Mass Pioneers have been endorsed as one of the founding members of the USL Academy League’s Northeast Division. The Academy League season is due to kick off in late spring 2021 and will provide clubs in all three of the USL's senior divisions with an elite youth development and competition platform. As such, the clubs can now develop a more clearly defined path for the top youth prospects in their area to reach the professional and collegiate levels.

The Western Mass Pioneers are the defending Northeast Conference Champions of USL League Two. The team will begin its 22 nd season of play this coming spring – having won a National Championship in 1999. Over the years, several Pioneers’ players have gone on to the professional ranks; including Thomas McNamara of the New England Revolution and most recently Guzman Diaz of Club Deportivo Maldonado (Uruguay).

"This is a great opportunity for us to start preparing for the USL team in years to come and for players to compete with and against USL players in the future," stated Pioneers Head Coach Federico Molinari.

The Pioneers Senior Team staff will conduct tryouts for the Academy Team on Saturday, November 14 th at 4:30pm at Lusitano Stadium (400 Winsor Street, Ludlow MA). All players regardless of club affiliation may participate.

The structure of the USL Academy League provides the Pioneers a progressive model to develop local players for their Senior Team, at a fraction of the cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Teams participating in the Academy League will field one elite youth team, made up of the top U15-U19 prospects in their area. Each team will limit the number of U18/19 players and will require a minimum number of U16/U17 players and encourage the clubs to integrate the top U15 players when developmentally appropriate.

"Whether a player is looking for a professional opportunity or a successful college career, the USL Academy League provides the perfect platform to bring together the top youth players in the area. The league is designed to supplement a player's current program and with no age restrictions this will allow the best players in the area to develop and compete at the highest level," added General Manager Joe Ferrara.

For more information on the Academy League and for tryout details contact Joe Ferrara at jferrara@wmpioneers.com or 413-330-9775.

More than 50 clubs across 25 states comprise the wide geographic footprint of the USL Academy League. The league will be divided into seven regions: Northeast, Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, East Central, South Central and Southwest. The 12 clubs set to compete in the Northeast Division of the USL Academy League and the territories in which they will compete in are as follows:

• Black Rock FC: Lake Placid, NY (USL League Two)
• Boston Bolts: Boston, MA (USL League Two)
• Cedar Stars Academy: South Hackensack, NJ (USL League Two)
• FA Euro New York: New York, NY (USL League Two)
• Hartford Athletic: Hartford, CT (USL Championship)
• Ironbound SC: Newark, NJ ( Part of the New York Red Bulls’ player pathway )
• Long Island Rough Riders: Long Island, NY (USL League Two)
• Morris Elite: Madison, NJ (USL League Two)
• Queensboro FC: New York, NY (USL Championship)
• Seacoast United: Portsmouth, NH (USL League Two)
• Westchester Flames: Westchester, NY (USL League Two)
• Western Mass Pioneers : Ludlow, MA (USL League Two)

The launch of the USL Academy League will help all USL clubs identify top prospects, and provide more players with the opportunity to compete against professionals at a younger age. The 2020 USL Championship season has shown that young players on USL Academy contracts can break through to their local Senior Teams. Players like Orange County SC’s Aaron Cervantes and Francis Jacobs, San Antonio FC’s Jose Gallegos, Austin Bold FC’s Beto Avila,
Birmingham Legion FC’s Jaden Servania, Sacramento Republic FC’s Hayden Sargis, Indy Eleven’s Josh Penn and Phoenix Rising FC’s Ansu Kanneh, among others, demonstrate the benefits of an established youth development pathway at USL clubs.

Visit https://www.usl-academy.com/.com/ for more information.