“Los Angeles Football Club may be the most-hyped M.L.S. expansion franchise ever. Playing in a stunning stadium in the heart of the City of Angels, led by former U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley and making bold personnel moves, Hollywood can hardly wait for the team’s 2018 M.L.S. debut.

But LAFC has already taken the field in the Development Academy, the nation’s highest level of youth soccer. When the club’s academy launched last year, the U-12s squared off against established M.L.S. sides for the first time. This weekend’s U-13 and U-14 West Regional Showcase isn’t only a major step in the development of LAFC’s players, but also in the development of the club itself. Academy Regional Showcases are the first events for the the nation’s elite youth players and LA’s presence for the first time is key to its development of a world-class club environment.

This weekend is giving LA its first chance to compete with top clubs outside its division and see where they stack up. Its players are facing off against new opponents and have the chance to shine in their first major exposure to U.S. Soccer Talent Identification. While the M.L.S. expansion side will debut this March, the Academy is already actively working towards the club’s lofty expectations.

“We are a new club, but we’re also an M.L.S. franchise. We’re also in a market that has lots of talent,” said Todd Saldana, LAFC Academy Director. “There’s been a lot of energy put into making sure people know we’re a downtown LA club. The image I think will hold true from the first team to our youth… We talk a lot about setting our own standard, knowing that expectations are high. It’s good to see that we’re on the right track.””

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