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USL Arkansas to Launch U20 Academy Team to Cultivate Local Talent

By USL Arkansas, 05/17/24, 6:00AM CDT


Evaluations scheduled the week of May 20

(Northwest Arkansas) – USL Arkansas is excited to announce a new initiative to cultivate local soccer talent: the launch of a U20 Academy team. In collaboration with Sporting Arkansas, the team will play in a combination of USL Academy competitions as well as the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) beginning play in the fall of 2024.


"We're excited to begin our efforts to grow the soccer talent level in this region and unite the entire Northwest Arkansas soccer community,” said Chris Martinovic, co-founder of USL Arkansas and former youth club coach. “This academy team is just the first step towards helping develop a player pathway to pro as we look ahead to the launch of the senior teams in the coming years, and they will be the first to wear the Club’s official name, crest and colors.”


Sporting Arkansas was searching for a solution to a persistent problem in the youth club soccer landscape in Northwest Arkansas – the need to elevate the level of play, competition and collegiate and professional exposure among older age groups.


"As the region’s most talented players reach their mid-teens, they are frequently forced to leave Northwest Arkansas to find the high-level competition necessary to continue their development and pursue college or professional aspirations,” said Scott Marksberry, Director of Coaching for Sporting Arkansas.


Increasingly, professional academies across the country, including in the USL, have adopted this model as a next step for their most mature teams. With this in mind, Sporting Arkansas approached the leadership of USL Arkansas to maximize the opportunity for the broader community.


“We wanted to raise the level of competition, development and exposure for top talent across the region,” Marksberry said. “When we got to thinking about how we could make the biggest impact for the greatest number of players, launching this team under USL Arkansas became a clear choice. With the combined resources and expertise of both organizations, these players will have the best possible environment to thrive and compete at the highest levels.”


Martinovic added: “We commend Scott and Sporting Arkansas for thinking beyond themselves and about the broader region in their approach and we look forward to forming other creative initiatives with local clubs and ensuring we invest equally in the development of our women players."


The U20 Academy team will feature a coaching staff of experienced former collegiate and professional players and coaches. In addition to playing the UPSL schedule, the team will compete in friendlies with professional academies from Major League Soccer (MLS), USL and regional men's college programs. The team will also participate in the USL Academy Cup and other USL-sanctioned national events.

The U20 Academy team is open to all boys youth players born on or after January 1, 2005, with evaluations scheduled the week of May 20th. The best players in the region will be offered positions on this team, regardless of where they currently compete. Further details regarding evaluations can be found on the USL Arkansas website. The team’s official name and crest continue to be developed and will be unveiled in the coming months.


USL Arkansas invites the community to support this new team as they prepare to take the field during this inaugural season, promising a new chapter of competitive soccer in Arkansas.



About Sporting Arkansas Soccer Club:

Founded in 1998 and based in Bentonville, Arkansas, Sporting Arkansas Soccer Club is the premier player development club in northwest Arkansas and an Official Academy Affiliate of Sporting Kansas City. The club is dedicated to developing athletes’ skills, character, and love for the game by providing professional coaching, state-of-the-art facilities, and a nurturing environment. For more information, visit or follow the club on social media @SportingArkansas.


About USL Arkansas:

USL Arkansas was co-founded by Chris Martinovic and Warren Smith with a mission to bring professional soccer to Northwest Arkansas. The organization is committed to leveraging soccer as a force for good and aims to foster a strong sense of community in the region. USL Arkansas aims to launch and operate a USL Championship Men's team and a USL Super League Women's team. For more information, visit

USL Arkansas Media Kit