April 16 (UPI) -- The United States Soccer Federation has decided to eliminate its development academy due to the "financial situation" it is in because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It is with profound disappointment that we have made the determination to end the operation of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, effective immediately," the federation said Wednesday.
Major League Soccer also announced it is forming a new youth competition for its academy teams, which will also include players who previously participated in the federation's development academy.
"This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but the extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the development academy into the future," the federation said in a statement.
"We know that suddenly discontinuing a program that has been with [the federation] for many years is shocking, but these unprecedented times required taking action now."
The federation's development academy was a nationwide youth league including different age groups for boys and girls. The academy started in 2007.
Soccer players -- from toddlers to professional competitors -- have been barred from playing together in the U.S. due to the pandemic. Several federation development academy games had been previously suspended.
The federation formed the youth academy as a way to develop players from a younger age with an emphasis on increased training.
MLS announced Tuesday that is is unlikely the league returns from suspension at the mid-May date it initially targeted. The league specifically cited using players from the now disbanded federation development academy in its new youth competition.
"Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway, from our academy teams through the professional game," said Todd Durbin, MLS executive vice president of competition and player relations.
"As we look ahead to the 2026 FIFA World Cup here in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, now more than ever it is incumbent on us to establish a competition that sets a new standard for elite youth play and allows athletes to achieve their full potential."
The MLS youth competition will include league season matches and regional and national tournaments with international opponents. There are currently 2,500 players and 250 youth coaches in MLS academies.