VfL Wolfsburg are forging new and innovative paths in their youth development, with the aim of optimising the talent pool and meeting the demands of player development in modern football in an even better and more targeted way.
The new strategic direction is based around three critical decisions:
1. Cooperation with SKN St. Pölten
VfL Wolfsburg has signed an initial four-year cooperation agreement with Austrian top-flight club SKN St. Pölten, which will come into effect on 1 July 2021. In the future, this will give the opportunity for the Green-and-Whites’ top young talents to be loaned out across the border and continue their career development at a higher level. The decision as to whether a particular loan deal makes sense and will be implemented or not will be taken jointly by VfL and St. Pölten after in-depth discussions.
2. Disbandment of U23 team
Since in the future there will be the opportunity to develop the top VfL talents in the transition between youth and first-team level more effectively and in a more competitive environment in the Austrian professional football system with St. Pölten, the decision was taken to cancel the U23s’ participation in the fourth-tier Regionalliga Nord as of next season and to disband the team.
This will primarily bring the U19 and the U17 teams into sharper focus, with more priority being given to them. The decision will also enable the youth development to concentrate on the five teams between U14 and U19 in a more professional and focused way, and to nurture the talents there on a more individual and intensive basis. While all employees involved in the U23 team will continue to work for the VfL football academy, it does mean that some players and coaches will be leaving the club. VfL will do everything it can in these cases to find a socially acceptable solution for those affected.
3. Cooperation with four regional partner clubs for the U10 to U13 age groups
To meet the development needs of the club’s talented youngsters without putting pressure on them in terms of performance and selection, and to enable them to play in a familiar environment for as long as possible, VfL has also decided to outsource the lower levels of the youth set-up between U10 and U13 levels to four selected clubs in the region, namely BSC Acosta, VfB Fallersleben, MTV Gifhorn and SSV Vorsfelde. From summer 2021, there will no longer be VfL U10 to U12 teams, while the U13s will be disbanded in summer 2022.
“Better flow-through into professional football”
“We want to take a new direction for our youth development in the future and as such, we have all come to a decision on the new strategic paths to follow – ones that will consciously take us away from the road that we had been going down in order to find innovative approaches to further optimise the training of our current and future top young talents and to take things to the next level," said VfL sporting director Marcel Schäfer. "Doing away with our U23s was obviously anything other than an easy choice to make for us, but thanks to our cooperation with St. Pölten – and the opportunities that this will provide our players with to develop their careers in a professional league – having our own age-group team in the Regionalliga no longer makes sense, either economically or in terms of their prospects. We are convinced that all of the measures will contribute to promoting and developing our talents in the best possible way and achieving better flow-through into professional football."