Sporting Kansas City have found their new Academy Director. Declan Jogi has been selected to step up to be the Academy Director and U-19 head coach. Former Sporting KC player and Kansas City native Christian Duke has also joined the Academy as the U-13 and U-12 coach.
Jogi came to Sporting KC’s Academy from Tennessee in 2015 and quickly gained a tremendous reputation for player development. He is from Zimbabwe, played at King University in Tennessee, and then played professionally with the Charlotte Eagles of the United Soccer League and both Acadia United and Dynamos FC in the Zimbabwe Premier League.
Previous Academy Director Jon Parry announced his retirement in May. Parry had been Sporting KC’s Academy Director since 2008 and oversaw a tremendous growth in the Academy and youth soccer in Kansas City. With Parry’s retirement and Academy coach Rumba Munthali moving to Nashville SC, there was a definite shortage of coaches in the Academy until now.
Why Declan Jogi?
“Declan has been with us, basically seven years, I think he knows the club, the culture, all those things really well,” Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes stated. “I think he’s also seen an evolution within the Academy, and he sees what the next steps are. I also think knowing the landscape of soccer in the United States, especially on the youth level is very, very important. We had quite a few foreign candidates as well that came with very good resumes and very good experience. Declan is very personable and very well respected within not only the academy staff, but the entire staff.”
It will be Jogi’s task to take the Academy into the future in an ever-changing and competitive landscape of youth soccer. “We talked to a lot of different people, and I thought there were some tremendous candidates for sure,” Vermes explained. “We spent a long amount of time in the process of trying to find who we think the person that’s probably the fit for the next evolution, not only for our Academy but also with some possible rule changes that are coming down the pike.”
One of the criticisms of the MLS Academy system has been the homegrown territories that limit movement from one Academy program to another. MLS teams have regions and clubs with hot beds of youth soccer have a distinct advantage. Sporting KC has had success finding players in territories where no MLS teams existed, but the sources are harder and harder to find as MLS expands into good soccer areas.
Those “possible rules changes” Vermes mentioned have not been announced but have been reported by Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio in The Athletic. Not all the details are there but it looks like teams will be allowed to protect 54 players (45 in their Academy system and nine outside of it) in their “homegrown territories”.
“We don’t have the dense population that all these other places have so that we don’t have as many kids playing the game,” Vermes told The Blue Testament. “They have so much more to pick and choose from. When we have more access to those types of players within our system as well, it raises the level of all the players. The saying, ‘A rising tide lifts all ships.’ I don’t care how good of a coach you are at the end of the day, what breeds development is competition, and we need more and more high-quality competition within our teams. And I really think that Declan will really help with that and also that relationship with the second team.”
Vermes easily explained why Duke was a good hire as an Academy coach. “First off, let’s put aside for a second that he played here in the system for quite some time. I think he has a real propensity for coaching and it’s what he wants to do. Everybody wants to do something, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be good at it, but you can tell that he has a good way with the kids and he’s always interested in learning. He’s got a humble way about him and then you add in there that he’s been a part of this system for a long time. He was on the first team, the second team, he’s been a mentor to a lot of guys, all of that stuff is very helpful as we continue to build.”
With Duke on board, the staff have a sufficient number of coaches to cover all their teams but are still looking to add another coach. SKC can take their time and make sure the coach is the right fit for the future.