FLINT, Mich. - 2019 USL League Two title-winners the Flint City Bucks are making moves to improve the club’s USL Academy model for the 2021 season and beyond by partnering with multiple local youth clubs, including Liverpool FC Michigan. The partnership will see the Flint City Bucks extend USL Academy team spots to the best players from Liverpool FC Michigan and future youth affiliates in addition to offering these youth players the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with Flint City’s USL League Two team.
“We have had a very solid, long lasting and respectful relationship with the Flint City Bucks over many decades,” said Andy Wagstaff, President and Owner of Liverpool FC Michigan and Head Coach of Flint City Bucks League Two team. “To be given the chance to operate within their USL Academy team and provide a solid pathway to pro for our players was exactly what we have been looking for. The professionalism of the USL Academy and the Flint City Bucks will provide a proven platform for growth for our top players and coaches and a pathway to the first team and hopefully onto the professional ranks for some players. We are very honored to have been given this opportunity by the Flint City Bucks and are excited to start our journey in the USL Academy.”
The partnership announcement follows the Flint City Bucks commissioning of a coaching staff for its inaugural USL Academy team, which includes the appointment of Ben Jones as Head Coach and Michael O’Neill as Assistant Coach. With Jones, O’Neill and Wagstaff all serving dual roles between the Flint City Bucks organization and Liverpool FC, the structure of the partnership will benefit from mutual involvement and a shared player development mission of advancing amateur careers to professional careers.
As Head Coach of the Flint City Bucks Academy team, Jones will lead the process in identifying local Michigan players who will compete with the Academy team. In addition, Jones will further collaborate with a number of clubs in Michigan to help build future partnerships with the Flint City Bucks in order to enhance the player pool for the Bucks USL Academy team. Future partnerships are expected to be finalized in the coming months with the mission of further developing the Bucks Academy team offering.
“Having a USL Academy team playing under the leadership of Ben Jones and Michael O'Neill strengthens our player pool and creates more opportunities for elite U16-U19 players in Michigan to develop and play at a higher level,” said Costa Papista, President of the Flint City Bucks. “We are excited and proud to be a founding member of the USL Academy."
Through a partnership with the Flint City Bucks, youth affiliates will be able to provide players with the opportunity to train with top players and potentially break into the Flint City Bucks first team. These partnerships have been formed to accomplish a vision and a mission that both Flint City Bucks and the Michigan soccer community share in creating a pathway for elite local players to move from the grassroots level to professional soccer. In addition, the Bucks will be able to provide young players the chance to continue playing for their own club while also joining the Academy environment to give them more access to the elite level.
"The USL Academy League will be an exciting new addition to the Flint City Bucks for the 2021 season,” said Ben Jones, Head Coach of the Bucks Academy team and Technical Director of Liverpool FC Michigan. “The vision of the Academy team will be to bring the best high school aged players from a number of youth soccer clubs from across the area together into one squad to train and compete against other USL Academy teams from across the region.”
“Our vision is to create an elite youth development environment where there is true synergy between the Academy team and the USL League Two team, therefore creating opportunities for young players to be exposed to college and professional scouts and assist them in reaching their dreams of playing at the next level. We aim to further build on the tradition of excellence associated with Flint City Bucks by putting an exciting product on the field that the local community will be proud to call their own."