USL Arkansas plans under-20 boys soccer team

A preliminary rendering shows what USL Arkansas’ new stadium could look like. (USL Arkansas)

A new program to develop and keep local soccer talent in the area is set to debut later this year.

USL Arkansas, the group working to bring professional soccer to the area, has announced the formation of an under-20 academy boys team, set to compete in the USL Academy competitions and the United Premier Soccer League starting this fall.

Chris Martinovic, co-founder of USL Arkansas and a former youth club coach, said the new team is the first step towards creating a pathway to professional soccer for young players in Northwest Arkansas.

As the group looks ahead to the launch of the senior teams in the coming years, the academy team will be the first to wear the club’s jerseys, he said.

The team’s official name and crest are still being developed and are expected to be revealed in the coming months.

Scott Marksberry, director of coaching for Sporting Arkansas, said many talented players have had to leave Northwest Arkansas in their mid-teens to find higher-level competition.

“When we got to thinking about how we could make the biggest impact for the greatest number of players, launching this team under USL Arkansas became a clear choice,” Marksberry explained. “With the combined resources and expertise of both organizations, these players will have the best possible environment to thrive and compete at the highest levels.”

The U20 team will be coached by former collegiate and professional coaches and players.

In addition to their UPSL schedule, they will participate in exhibition games with professional academies from Major League Soccer, USL, and regional men’s college programs. The team will also compete in the USL Academy Cup and other national events sanctioned by the USL.

Tryouts for the U20 Academy team are open (click here) to boys born on or after Jan. 1, 2005, with evaluations scheduled for the week of May 20.