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Portland Timbers To Launch Academy, Already Fighting High Schools

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The Seattle Sounders relative easy access to Clark County, Washington talents (Nick Palodichuk, Mikhail Doholis) will shortly be coming to an end as the Portland Timbers will be selecting their U-16 and U-18 players come spring 2012. While some criticized that the Sounders took over a top level Academy program to springboard their launch, the Timbers are even more aggressive taking over the whole of the Oregon Olympic Development Program (though still have catchment limits on HGP signings). The primary difference is that unlike the Sounders Academy Portland will be likely be requiring their players to abandon their high school programs.

On the East Coast this is common. And the conflict there between established high schools (who would develop a player up until Academy selection and then lose the player) have been noted in the Washington Post. The Northwest Region of the USSDA actually takes a break for high school soccer, but if an Academy had enough of its players not in playing for their school they could participate in non-divisional play flying around the country.

From the original link a local Oregon athletic director notes;

"We seem to dominate football and basketball and baseball in the world, and last I checked, those kids still get to finish with their high school teams," said Southridge athletic director Bryan Sorenson, the Metro League soccer chairperson. "I just wish there could be some dialogue."

Finding a balance between high school athletics and what is an advanced level of club soccer can be difficult. The Academies do greatly reduce costs on the families as they are supported by a fully pro-level. But they demand travel, and the opportunity to practice with the Senior team is more than just a morale boost. Both of those though can demand the cooperation of school administrators.

Going to odds with those administrators from the start could mean that fewer players are dismissed from class for cross-country trips or training. And while Gavin Wilkinson says that the point of high school is to go to college, he is setting up a circumstance that may reduce the academic standing of the players. It is clear that the high schools currently feel at odds with the Timbers.

For a team that waited so long to establish their Academy, a year longer than the Sounders, and three years longer than any expansion team should, why take an aggressive stance against people who are in essence your fans?

Odder yet, why try to sow the same discord in the state of Washington?

Wilkinson said he believes that policy will soon change for the Sounders, and most MLS teams. Miller [Washington Interscholastic Activities Association assistant executive director] he has not heard that from the Sounders.

All who love the game should be working in partnership in their communities, not directly in conflict with the desires of current and future fans.