It seems as if MLS is getting serious about developing the best talents that North America has to offer in its academy programs. Many have argued since the introduction of the home grown player program that the biggest thing holding its success back was the development of proper coaches who are up to the task of developing top level talent.
The league took a big step towards giving its academy coaches the best possible training by striking a partnership with the French Football Federation that will allow coaches from each club's academy to receive a higher level of training. The partnership will allow academy coaches to train through a 16-month development course and receive their Elite Formation Coaching License.
The partnership is already in effect as representatives of each MLS club have headed to the FFF's national training center in Clairefontaine where they will receive the same training that is offered to domestic French coaches. The program will have a few unique elements to make it fit the audience and include features from MLS, the USSF, and the CSA. Toronto FC will be represented in that training program by their top academy coach, Danny Dichio.
It seems like Dichio is in for some intense learning as the course will include eight weeks of course work, two weeks of immersion at at the academy of a major European team, and finally integration into the MLS academy system. MLS did not miss the chance to boast about some of the major European teams coaches might end up dropping names like Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Paris Saint Germain as destinations.
The training will be spread out over the next two years as coaches will complete eight sessions between now and May of 2014 before the start of the integration program in June 2014. It is a lot of time to invest into training but it is time that will be worth it as it should help to boost the quality of coaching in every academy around the league.
It is nice to see MLS making a move like this as it acknowledges that there is a lot of room for improvement in the way that the league develops both youth players and coaches. It also shows that they are acknowledging that despite the differences of the league there are still things that they can learn from leagues in Europe that have been doing this a lot longer than we have in North America.
The choice of the French Football Federation as the partner is also one that fans should have no problem getting behind. The French have a proven track record of developing top class coaches and always seem to have a constant stream of talented young players coming up through their league structure before being sold to the World's top clubs. That is a model that MLS would do well to emulate as being a seller league has allowed the French Leagues to find stability and success on Europe's biggest stages.
It will likely be years before we see any results from this training program but it is step one towards MLS making the needed investments in improving the standards of coaching and player development. This partnership is certainly something that fans around the league should be able to get behind as a positive step for the league.