The Chicago Fire Academy's primary goal is developing players for the first team, full-stop. The unfortunate truth of player development, though, is that it takes hundreds of prospects to find one future pro.
In most of the footballing world, if the Academy doesn't sign a player into the first team, they're cut loose, probably looking in lower leagues for an opportunity to chase the dream. Here in the USA it goes differently. The lower leagues still aren't as robust as in other countries, but in their place lies the bizarre nearly-football played in the NCAA, which pays its amateurs in 'educational opportunity' rather than, y'know, money.
Friday, the Fire announced that nine of its Academy players had signed letters-of-intent to play soccer at NCAA Division I universities. Those nine - Jeff Farina (Notre Dame University), Luca Giovine (Florida International University), Grant Lillard (Indiana University), Mitch Meyer (Cornell University), John Moderwell (Northwestern University), James Myall (Brown University), Adrian Remeniuk (University of Wisconsin – Madison), Alex Underwood (University of Denver) and Martin Alba (Marquette University) - are another sign of the growing productivity of the Academy.
"We’re very proud of these guys," Chicago Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland said to chicago-fire.com. "While the ultimate goal is to see these players on our first team, we take great pride in the fact that one-hundred percent of our players academically qualifying for college end up on athletic scholarship at top universities that also have high level soccer programs. That, in and of itself is a tremendous accomplishment few can claim."