COLCHESTER United performance director Jon De Souza believes their strong academy can give them a long-term advantage after a salary cap was introduced.

Clubs have voted for a limit of £1.5m for League Two clubs and £2.5m for League One sides, with immediate effect.

Chairman Robbie Cowling has made a long-term investment in the U's youth set-up, with players under the age of 21 not counting towards the salary cap imposed on clubs.

The U's have produced the likes of Sammie Szmodics, Tom Lapslie and Frankie Kent from their academy, over recent years.

And with their Category Two academy allowing their youngsters to compete against some of the best in the country, De Souza feels the changes are something the U's can capitalise on.

De Souza said: “We’re the only Cat Two club in League Two and have young players playing against higher-level opposition than anyone else in our division, so hopefully it’ll develop them a little bit further.

“With the provision in terms of staff and facilities and doing our job properly in developing young players, we definitely have an advantage and we need to make sure that we plan and actually deliver that advantage to benefit us this season and in the long run.

“Ultimately, no-one knows what’s going to happen this season with the pandemic and the problems that it might bring for clubs, both on and off the pitch.

“But I certainly think in the long term, the chairman’s vision has always been about building a sustainable club not for one or two seasons but for a period of time and I think the academy should certainly help us do that, moving forwards.

“The one thing that we’re conscious of as a club with all that’s gone on is that it’s very difficult to see where the season is going to go, especially with the salary capping.

“Some clubs are trying to use that as an advantage to try and get out of this league as quickly as possible and some clubs are struggling to stay in business.

“Our ambitions are always the same; we want to achieve as much as we can and develop the football club.

“But we’re also aware that this season could look very, very different.

“The chairman has been quite clear about where we’re at."

Last season's play-off semi-finalists Colchester are planning for the new League Two season, which is set to kick off on September 12.

It will be Steve Ball's first season as head coach, following his appointment as John McGreal's successor last month.

“The goal for us is to try to improve, to try to develop and to try to achieve as much as possible," added De Souza.

“I know Steve (Ball) has mentioned about wanting to be in and around the play-off positions as a minimum.

“It’ll take a while for everything to settle down.

“Although football is returning in terms of training, there’s still a lot more to be done to even look at where the season is even going to start.

“I know the provisional dates are in place but there’s talk of second waves so at the moment, we’re very much looking after what we’ve got, being patient and we’ll see from there."