Revealed: the best A-League youth academy

With last Saturday’s National Youth League Grand Final seeing Melbourne City take out their second title in three seasons, it once again raised the question of how best to judge the success of an A-League academy.

Below we go through the numbers to reveal which A-League club has the best youth development system.

It’s a long-argued topic with fans often split on what exactly justifies the title of best academy. While many point at NYL and Nation Premier League (NPL) trophies as the measure of success, others use the number of players produced for the first team as the true marker.

This argument is even fought at club level with the philosophies and objectives of A-League clubs differing at each club between trophy winning and developing players.

What often seems to be lacking in the arguments is pure facts as perceptions are used to gauge success, especially when it comes to players graduating into the first team. So The Football Sack decided to do something about it.

Youth Academy Graph

As the league has only been made-up of the current clubs for the past five season, we have only taken results and players from the past five seasons (2012/13 season to the present).

We have analysed every A-League youth academy and the Australian Institute of Sport (named FFA Centre of Excellence) to calculate:

  • Youth trophies won
  • First team players produced
  • Total number of first team caps produced
  • Total number of players still playing in the A-League

Findings

  • Sydney FC have the most trophies out of all academies (4) but the least amount of players still in the A-League (4). They are seventh when it comes to total caps (221) with only two A-League academies below them. This suggests Sydney FC play for short-term success but with only lower/moderate long-term gain.
  • Melbourne City have the second most amount of youth trophies (2) and the most amount of first team players produced (21). Interestingly, they are second-last when it comes to players still in the A-League (6). This suggests a large number of players are pushed through the academy to play A-League but only a small number are good enough to remain at first team level.
  • Adelaide United have the most first team caps by a significant margin (310), the most players currently in the A-League (13) and the second most amount of first team players produced (19). They also have one trophy. This suggests their academy produces a consistent number of players capable of playing and remaining in the A-League.
  • Newcastle Jets have moderate success with one trophy and the second-highest number of caps (269). All this despite only being 7th in the players produced category (11). This suggests the academy only produces a small number of players but the ones who do come through have the quality to play and remain in the league.
  • Similar to the Jets are Perth Glory who are second-bottom for players produced (10) but fourth in regards to total caps (234).
  • Western Sydney Wanderers have the least amount of first team caps out of all the A-League academies (168) but have the second-highest number of players in the league (10) and are third in the amount of first team players produced (15). This suggests the academy has produced a number of A-League squad players but they have not become regular starters.
  • Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar are very similar. They are mid-table in players produced (14 & 15 respectively), total caps (226 & 222) and current players (7 & 8). This would represent an average academy.
  • FFA Centre of Excellence is third in current players (9) but last in total caps (161) and equal seventh in first team players produced (11).
  • Central Coast Mariners have produced the least amount of first team players (9) and are bottom half of the table for both current players (7) and first team caps (206).

Summary
Adelaide United is the academy that ticks all the boxes. They have produced a large number of players who remain in the league and consistently play matches. They have also won a trophy and last season were runners-up in the NYL, signifying they are competent in both development and results.

Adelaide United
Trophies: 1 (NPL2 League 2015)
First team players: 19
First team caps: 310
Current players: 13

Brisbane Roar
Trophies: 0
First team players: 15
First team caps: 222
Current players: 8

Central Coast Mariners
Trophies: 0
First team players: 9
First team caps: 206
Current players: 7

FFA Centre of Excellence
Trophies: 0
First team players: 11
First team caps: 161
Current players: 9

Melbourne City
Trophies: 2 (NYL 2016/17, 2014/15)
First team players: 21
First team caps: 248
Current players: 6

Melbourne Victory
Trophies: 1 (NYL 2012/13)
First team players: 14
First team caps: 226
Current players: 7

Newcastle Jets
Trophies: 1 (NPL League 2014)
First team players: 11
First team caps: 269
Current players: 7

Perth Glory
Trophies: 0
First team players: 10
First team caps: 234
Current players: 7

Sydney FC
Trophies: 4 (NYL 2015/16, 2013/14, NPL2 League 2016, NPL2 Grand Final 2016)
First team players: 14
First team caps: 221
Current players: 4

Western Sydney Wanderers
Trophies: 0
First team players: 15
First team caps: 168
Current players: 10

*Due to the data available, first team caps include A-League and Finals matches only, not FFA Cup or AFC Champions League
**Players who have played for multiple NYL teams are counted for both clubs
***Players are listed below for reference. Due to difficulty in finding historical NYL data a minimal amount of players may have been missed. If any errors are found, please contact us for amendment

Player Appendix

Adelaide United
Anthony Costa, Antoni Trimboli, Awer Mabil, Ben Warland, Bruce Kamau, Daniel Margush, Dylan Smith, John Hall, John Koutroumbis, Jordan Elsey, Marc Marino, Mark Ochieng, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Nikola Mileusnic, Paul Izzo, Riley McGree, Ruon Tongyik, Ryan Kitto, Teeboy Kamara

Brisbane Roar
Abrahim Yango, Ben Litfin, Brandon Borrello, Corey Brown, George Lambadaridis, Harry Sawyer, Jai Ingham, Kwame Yeboah, Lachlan Jackson, Luke Pavlou, Matt Acton, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Nicholas D’Agostino, Patrick Theodore, Shannon Brady

Central Coast Mariners
Adam Pearce, Anthony Caceres, Jake Adelson, Jake McGing, Joshua Bingham, Michael Neill, Ryan Peterson, Thomas Heward-Belle, Tom Slater

FFA Centre of Excellence
Alex Gersbach, Ben Warland, Daniel Arzani, Dylan Smith, Jamal Reiners, Kosta Petratos, Marc Marino, Mark Ochieng, Nicholas D’Agostino, Scott Galloway, Steve Kuzmanovski

Melbourne City
Alastair Bray, Ali Eyigun, Ben Garuccio, Cameron Edwards, Christian Cavallo, Daniel Arzani, David Vrankovic, Denis Genreau, Ersin Kaya, Hernan Espindola, Jeremy Walker, Marc Marino, Matthew Millar, Nick Symeoy, Paulo Retre, Ross Archibald, Ruon Tongyik, Sam Mitchinson, Stefan Mauk, Stefan Zinni, Wade Dekker

Melbourne Victory
Chris Cristaldo, Christian Cavallo, Connor Pain, Dylan Murnane, George Howard, Hernan Espindola, Jason Geria, Joey Katebian, Jordan Brown, Luke O’Dea, Sebastian Pasquali, Stefan Nigro, Theo Markelis, Thomas Deng

Newcastle Jets
Adam Pearce, Andrew Hoole, Brandon Lundy, Harry Sawyer, Jack Duncan, Kristian Brymora, Michael Kantarovski, Mitchell Oxborrow, Nick Cowburn, Radovan Pavicevic, Travis Cooper

Perth Glory
Brandon O’Neill, Daniel De Silva, Jack Clisby, Jacob Collard, Joe Knowles, Kosta Petratos, Matthew Davies, Mitchell Oxborrow, Riley Woodcock, Ryan Lowry

Sydney FC
Aaron Calver, Alec Urosevski, Alex Gersbach, Christopher Naumoff, Daniel Petkovski, Dylan Caton, George Blackwood, Hagi Gligor, Jacob Tratt, Lachlan Scott, Max Burgess, Peter Triantis, Themba Muata-Marlow, Tom Slater

Western Sydney Wanderers
Alusine Fofanah, Daniel Alessi, Jake Adelson, Jake McGing, Jaushua Sotirio, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Keanu Baccus, Lachlan Scott, Liam Youlley, Mario Shabow, Michael Trajkovski, Shayne D’Cunha, Steve Kuzmanovski, Thomas Heward-Belle, Yianni Perkatis

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