Mendocino County Soccer Academy

Development Pathway



MSCA provides playing opportunities to meet the needs of kids throughout Mendocino County. We've developed Grassroots Academy, Developmental Soccer League (DSL), and Select Teams.

But first, let's talk about the developmental philosophies that underpin these primary programs.

When looking at player development, we assess four aspects:

  • Technical ability,
  • Tactical ability,
  • Physical ability and
  • Psychological/emotional maturity.

Technical pertains to their dribbling, passing, receiving, and shooting abilities. This is sometimes called their "touch" with the ball and execution.

Tactical pertains to their "Soccer IQ," or knowledge of the game and how to play it. This deals with decision-making during game-like situations/scenarios created in training and game environments. This also includes how the game is played and how the "team" plays in different real-time situations in a game.

These two are most important to us and emphasized at the U14 level and below and continue to be important as they mature. The technique is the most important because the tactical application requires execution through the proper technique.

The following two components are essential at their younger ages but are not stressed. They are physical ability and psychological/emotional state.

We know that psychological and physical development varies among individuals. The dominant player at a young age, who is bigger, stronger, and faster, will soon have the others around them mature and catch them physically. If this individual doesn't develop the technical aptitude, the player who developed the technique will, in the end, be much better.

In the world game, size doesn't matter. There is no stereotypical physique for a footballer. The two greatest players of the modern era have entirely different physiques: Messi, who is 5'6", and Ronaldo, who is 6'2". At young ages, their emphasis on their development was technical and tactical.

Psychological pertains to maturity and emotional levels and how they cope with stress during the game. This could be thought of as their "mental toughness." How they handle the physical demands of the game, and how they respond to adversity? Do they stop when things go against them, or do they buckle down and elevate their play?

Physical deals with speed, agility, balance, strength, power, and endurance. These two components are emphasized a bit more, starting at the U14 age groups, but we still focus on the technical and tactical elements of development.

From a generalized view, this is the progression of MCSA's player development pathway:

  • Grassroots Academy ->
  • DSL ->
  • Select Teams

Note: There are situations in which a Grassroots player could move directly onto a Select Team.

Grassroots Academy

  • Player development starts at the U6 through U10 levels. Here, we look to create Masters of the Ball, Artists on the field. The emphasis is technical ability, focusing on the fundamentals of dribbling, passing, receiving (control), and shooting. Here, the players participate in a wide variety of fun-filled activities where they develop their gross and fine motor skills as well as motor memory. Every player has a ball, and we discourage lines and running without the ball. The children remain engaged and are having fun the entire time.
  • Professional coaches run these sessions.
  • Grassroots Academy has sessions across the county in the fall, spring, and summer.

Learn more about Grassroots Academy

Developmental Soccer League (DSL)

  • The DSL is a traditional fall soccer league with U10 through U15 age groups. Ideally, players participate in Grassroots Academy and develop a foundation in their technical abilities. Now, the individuals are in a more of a team setting.
  • The volunteer coach is an essential element. These coaches are guided by our Select Team coaching staff and MCSA Directors to facilitate the development of technique and introduce team concepts and tactical aspects of the game.
  • DSL is for those looking for a more competitive environment without the extensive travel required by Select Teams. Teams train in their hometown during the week and rotate towns on Saturdays for games. We have teams from Ukiah, Mendocino, Covelo, Laytonville, and Willits.
  • Volunteer coaches and teams have one night with an MCSA staff coach who will run a session, and then the volunteer coach will perform the same session on their own. This program only takes place in the fall season.Learn more about the DSL.

Select Teams

  • Our Select teams compete in the NorCal Premier League of Region 5. Players must try out and be chosen by the MCSA staff. They're typically the players/families that are the most committed regarding the required time and travel commitments.
  • Select players, typically but not always, have moved through the Grassroots, DSL, or both programs before making a Select Team.
  • When determining whether the player is ready, we look at technical, tactical, physical, and psychological aspects more closely. These players typically have excelled in the technical aspect and have demonstrated a high affinity for how the game is played.Learn more about Select Team details.

This path is designed to create technical players who have developed a love for the game. Ultimately, we hope to have all our players move on to the Select Level. Realistically, though, we know some individuals/families play just for fun and are not interested in the competitive side and commitment of travel and time.

Our primary goal is to provide a positive environment for learning and foster a love for the beautiful game for players at all levels of interest and experience.

Contact us for more information on how to get your child involved.