A one-year experimental developmental
team for American
players contracted to Major League Soccer
. It competed in the 2000 A-League Central Division
on an all-road
In most countries, elite soccer (or football outside the U.S. and Canada) players play with select club teams, supported by the local club team in a professional league, from a very early age by U.S. standards (age 12 is not uncommon). Outside players not attached to a club can be recruited; American John O'Brien of California was recruited to join Ajax Amsterdam's developmental academy at age 15. Thus, most truly elite players on a national scale have been training under the supervision of a professional club for ten years by the time they are ready to play for the senior national team.
This contrasts with the U.S. system where, like most other sports with professional leagues, players play with youth clubs, then for high school and college teams, before they ever get a chance to play or practice regularly against upper-echelon players. This contrast has put U.S. soccer at a severe developmental disadvantage, which Project-40 (or "U.S. Pro-40") sought to remedy.
U.S. Pro-40 players, most of whom were college-age or slightly younger, were drafted by an MLS team, paid the MLS minimum plus a scholarship award (to replace the athletic scholarship they lost by going pro), practiced with their MLS team during the week, then were allocated to Project-40 for weekend road play against A-League clubs. This developed better-trained MLS players in addition to supporting the U.S. national team.
Perhaps the best-known alumnus of Project-40 is DaMarcus Beasley, a left-sided midfielder for the Chicago Fire who has been one of the best field players for the 2002 U.S. World Cup team. Beasley's transfer value of $1 million has reportedly shot up closer to the $6 million value of fellow 20-year-old Landon Donovan, currently playing for the San Jose Earthquakes on loan from Bayer Leverkusen.