Stars of the future: How Adelaide United built the best youth system in Australia


It was not too long ago that it was no guarantee that the best youth talents from South Australia would make their A-League debuts for Adelaide United, with players like Craig Goodwin (Melbourne Heart), Brandon Borello (Brisbane Roar), and Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory) departing Adelaide for other clubs to have a better chance at breaking into professional football.

Wow, how the turntables, from Adelaide-cultivated talents already abroad like Riley McGree and Mo Toure, to established top talents of the current Adelaide side such as Nestory Irankunda and Jonny Yull, to future stars like Amlani Tatu and Feyzo Kasumovic, and even players Adelaide brought in from other youth systems like Joe Gauci (Melbourne City) and Yaya Dukuly (Melbourne City), Adelaide have a network of youth players better than any other club in Australia.

To be fair, however, it would not be fair to praise Adelaide’s youth system without mentioning their youth system is effectively the NPL clubs in South Australia. Unlike the other A-League clubs, Adelaide United does not have a true academy, rather taking players from the local clubs.

Clubs like Adelaide Croatia Raiders, Adelaide Olympic, and the Croydon Kings have contributed many players for Adelaide United.

As well as the NPL clubs, Football South Australia has their own full-time youth squads that play throughout the year and in the National Youth Championship, and many Adelaide United players have come through the Football South Australia National Training Centre.

Nestory Irankunda of Adelaide United celebrates a goal. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

That being said, this does not mean that Adelaide United are not worthy of being commended for their excellent youth production, as it just signals that there is a close and symbiotic relationship between Adelaide United, Football South Australia, and the NPL clubs.

The fact that they have managed to cultivate this is not a knock on the Reds, but rather a significant sign of their ability to innovate.

Players come to Adelaide United from either directly from their clubs or the National Training Centre and are immediately put into an environment that wins, with United actually winning the NPL title last year with rising stars across the roster.

Potentially the biggest thing the club have shown in their youth approach is their ability to innovate. Along with the unique approach to player development at the youth level, just this week Adelaide United announced a partnership with PSV Eindhoven, that would give players from the Reds to train and even play at the club that has produced players like Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay, and Donyell Malen.

It is also undeniable that this youth excellence has helped Adelaide United’s senior team, with Nestory Irankunda, Riley McGree, Ryan Strain, and Joe Gauci netting Adelaide a combined $9.5 million over the past four seasons.

This is about the same amount of money that Perth Glory, Western Sydney Wanderers, Western United, Macarthur, and the Wellington Phoenix have made from transfers combined since each club was founded. These transfer fees can then be re-invested into the youth system, further making the club better.

In the last round of Australia squads, Adelaide United were tied for the most players selected at both the Joey and Young Socceroo level. They have elite players across the age groups.

Perhaps the hardest part of producing young players is holding onto them. Take Western Sydney Wanderers, who have lost Miguel Di Pizio (Central Coast Mariners), Anthony Pavlesic (Central Coast Mariners), Alessandro Lopane (Melbourne City) and many others to rival clubs.

Adelaide United offers players contracts early and relatively generously, making them feel valued and truly part of the set-up of the future. Young players also see others getting chances in the first team, and know that if they prove themselves, they will be afforded the same opportunity.

Sports opinion delivered daily 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.