Technical Director

Will Thornton


Academy Director

Lars Richters



2023 Coaches

2011 - Shaun Gray

2010 - Lars Richters

2009 - Granit Caushaj

2008 - Will Thornton

2007 - Will Thornton

2006 / 2005 - Granit Caushaj


Full Professional MLS players

Jacob Peterson (Atlanta United, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto FC, Colorado Rapids)

Freddie Braun (Portland Timbers)

Colin Rolfe (Houston Dynamo)

Soony Saad (Sporting Kansas City)

Adam Bedell (Columbus Crew)

Mitch Hildebrandt (Atlanta United)

Josh Gatt (Colorado Rapids, Minnesota United)

Ken Krolicki (Montreal Impact)

Adam Grinwis (Orlando City)

Anton Sorenson (Philadelphia Union)

2017-2022 Full-time moves to MLS Academies:

2022 - Tristan Brown (Columbus Crew)

2022 - Anthony Alaouieh (Columbus Crew)

2022 - Mohamed Saad (Columbus Crew)

2022 - Tate Lampman (Houston Dynamo)

2022 - Vaughn DeRath (Columbus Crew)

2022 - Luke Spadafora (Columbus Crew)

2021 - Beau Barren (Sporting Kansas City)

2021 - Kamau Brame (Austin FC)

2021 - Zachary Kacic (FC Cincinnati)

2021 - Chinelo Robinson (Sporting Kansas City)

2021 - Naim Robinson (Sporting Kansas City

2020 - Stephen Belanger (Vancouver Whitecaps)

2020 - Grant Mateer (FC Cincinnati)

2020 - Jake Spadafora (Philadelphia Union)

2019 - Miles Foster (Columbus Crew)

2019 - Brennan Skrzyniak (Nashville FC)

2019 - Anton Sorenson (Philadelphia Union)

2018 - Alex Wenske (Columbus Crew)

2017 - Eric Conerty (Columbus Crew)

2017 - Logan Kowalczyk (Columbus Crew)

2017 - Nick Pariano (Philadelphia Union)

What is the Wolves MLS NEXT Academy?

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy was created in 2007 to bring together the top youth clubs in the country, to promote world-class standards, and to impact the daily environments of its members. The Wolves were inaugural members in that program and enjoyed a tremendous amount of success as a DA club. In 2020, the Michigan Wolves Academy was honored to be one of the founding members of the new MLS youth competition, which will serve as “the top destination for the best young players in North America.” According to Major League Soccer, “With a focus on maximizing each player’s potential, the new development platform will not only provide high-level, year-round competition for players, but will provide important programming, education and innovation in the key areas of player development.” For more information, visit

What is the mission of the Michigan Wolves MLS NEXT Academy?

The Michigan Wolves MLS NEXT Academy provides a holistic developmental program for the top male players in our club, in our state, and in our region of the United States and Canada. The Wolves MLS NEXT Academy mission is to prepare highly motivated individuals for their next steps in soccer and in life. We help players maximize their potential and support their goals of advancement to the professional, college, Youth National Team, and MLS Academy levels.

How do we get access to National Teams / professional opportunities?
MLS connections — As founding members in the new MLS youth competition, our pathway to professional soccer has become even more direct. Beyond our presence in the platform, our relationships with several MLS clubs provide opportunities for players to get supplemental training and compete in the GA Cup, an elite tournament series. Additionally, scouts from MLS and foreign clubs will continue to follow our players at games, at showcases, and on film. This is another way that we can fulfill our mission of helping players on to their next steps in the game.
National Team exposure – Playing in the top league in our country will regularly expose our players to U.S. Soccer Youth National Team coaches and scouts.
What is the level of college exposure?

Historically, Academy showcases and regular season games provided players with unparalleled recruiting opportunities. College coaches naturally seek out the top competition, so our ongoing participation in the nation’s top youth league will continue to provide our players with tremendous exposure. As a club, we take an active role in helping young men and their families engage in the college search process. In addition to regular meetings and an annual Wolves College Night, we host an annual college combine that brings top MLS NEXT Academy clubs and coaches from a large number of universities to our indoor dome. We are proud to say that Wolves’ MLS NEXT Academy players are currently competing at some of the top soccer programs and earning degrees at some of the most outstanding universities in the country.

What should players expect from an MLS NEXT Academy season?
Competition — The MLS NEXT Academy platform will again consist of a 11-month season, which starts in August and ends in June.
Training – The U14, U15, U16, U17, and U19 Academy teams train four days per week at state-of-the-art facilities with the top coaching staff in Michigan. The U13 Academy team trains three times weekly.
Holistic approach –The MLS NEXT Academy provides a range of experiences for the players on and off the field. Mercy Elite offers regular sports performance training, athletic trainer services, and rehabilitation options. This is intended to prevent injuries, improve athleticism, and maximize game-day performance. The Wolves MLS NEXT Academy uses STATSports GPS technology for our U15 through U19 players to help the staff to monitor player output and to promote health and safety. Each Academy game is recorded on the club’s Veo video platform and shared directly with players and staff. Games and individual performance can thereby be used as a tool for development
What other clubs will compete in the new MLS elite platform?
The Wolves will be competing against traditional MLS NEXT Academy rivals throughout the Midwest region and the country. Opponents will come from among MLS Academies and Elite Youth Academies (non-MLS).
CLICK HERE for a full list of Member clubs
What elite competitions have Wolves Academy teams attended?

The U14 Wolves Academy (’06) were invited to compete at the International Champions Cup Futures in Bradenton, FL, in December, 2019. This is the most competitive U14 soccer tournament in the world, and the 2019 field boasted many world-renowned clubs like Barcelona FC, Real Madrid, Manchester, City, Juventus, and PSG. The Wolves defeated Tottenham Hotspur (EPL) twice on their way to a quarterfinal appearance.

The Wolves Academy has competed for the past two years at the highly-regarded U12 MLS GA Cup held annually in Atlanta, Georgia. This event brings the top players in North America together at the Atlanta United training facility for a unique 7v7 competition.

Who are the members of the Wolves MLS NEXT Academy coaching staff?

Lars Richters

  • Academy Director
  • A License

Will Thornton

  • Technical Director
  • A License

Granit Caushaj

  • A License

Shaun Gray

  • B License
Where do Wolves MLS NEXT Academy teams train and play?

The Michigan Wolves have arguably the best facilities in the state. Our teams primarily utilize the St. Joe’s Sports Dome and the lighted outdoor stadium field at Schoolcraft College.

Will there be extra opportunities for high performing players?

Short answer YES, players who are high performing within their own teams will be given opportunities to train and play with different teams within their own age group or the age group above.  These decisions will be made in collaboration between the players head coach, the head coach of the proposed team and the age group director.  This decision will only be made if it is in the best interests of the players development.



The Michigan Wolves are inaugural members of the Development Academy, which originated in 2007.  By the following year, both our U16 and U18 teams were ranked #1 in the country, and our U16's were crowned National Champions in 2009.

Since the beginning of the Development Academy, the Wolves have been proud to help 9 players on their path to Major League Soccer rosters, several others to professional clubs abroad, and numerous individuals to Youth National Team appearances. In 2012 and 2013, the club was honored when Wolves alum Josh Gatt earned 2 caps with the full US Men’s National team as he competed in matches against Russia and Canada. Our individual players are regularly selected to attend US Soccer Training Centers and have often been recognized by US Soccer on postseason Conference Best XI lists

In 2020 the Michigan Wolves joined the MLS NEXT which is a new paradigm for player development.  A platform that will transform the way players learn and grow.


The Wolves MLS NEXT Academy creates a culture of excellence and respect, and the leadership fosters a “family” atmosphere among the staff, the players, and the families. We ask that MLS NEXT coaches represent the club in an exemplary manner and exert a positive influence on the staff as a whole.

With the extra attention afforded to MLS NEXT Academy players, the club intends to help individuals reach their potential and to prepare them for their next steps as players. To that end, coaches and players regularly collaborate on individual development plans that are tailored to personal growth.

Finally, we expect our Michigan Wolves MLS NEXT Academy teams to promote the club’s style of play and to demonstrate a high level of integrity while competing among the top youth soccer clubs in the country.

Wolves Description

St. Joes Sports Dome

18600 Haggerty Road, Livonia, MI 48152

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