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The Barca Way -- in Arizona

By - Jun 28, 2017

By Orlando Manzo/for The Sporting Nation

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - The one and only FC Barcelona of Spain and Arizona's Grande Sports Academy have joined forces to create a new opportunity in U.S. youth soccer development.
Barcelona, one of the most widely-supported soccer teams in the world and considered by many fans as the team of the century among sports, is now the brand-new partner of Grande Sports Academy, one of the most successful youth soccer development academies in the United States.
Grande Sports Academy is now offering the Barca Academy, the only full-time residential program in the U.S. partnered with the Spanish mega-club. It's a unique development that no other professional club is doing just yet.
The academy will bring FCB's highest-level youth coaches to the U.S. to live full-time on campus and train teenage players year-round.
La Masia, FC Barcelona’s youth academy in Barcelona, is well known around the world for creating legendary players year after year. There is no better example than Lionel Messi, a five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, the annual award presented to the world’s best soccer player.
Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Gerard Pique are among other professional players from La Masia. They have won numerous trophies with the club and have been nominated for player of the year as well.
Grande Sports Academy was established in 2010 and was modeled after the successful Ajax Academy in (the) Netherlands and La Masia in Spain. The Academy has won the USSDA N(n)ational C(c)hampionship, been runner-up twice and had three different players recognized as player of the year by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
Tim Alai, general manager of Grande Sports Academy, said the academy has been recognized by U.S. Soccer as having one of the best soccer training facilities. Reason enough for FC Barcelona to build their only official full-time youth residency academy in the world besides La Masia.
“We have a 100 percent success rate for the quality of our facilities, Barcelona’s core values are very similar to our core values and what we provide as a whole are some of the reasons why Barca Academy is here in Arizona.” Alai said.
Alai also mentioned that Grande Sports Academy provides on-site dorms, nutrition, a performance center and an on-site high school facilitated by Arizona State University.
“We are more than a club, we provide education on site, we teach life skills, we get them prepared for college and prepare them to succeed in college.” Alai concluded.
The Barca Academy can potentially change the lives of many young boys that are looking to be successful in life or as a professional soccer player. Coaches around Phoenix like Felipe Plascencia, coach at Phoenix Sports Center, are beyond fascinated by having such a big-name academy nearby.
“Is a great opportunity for our kids to have a Barca Academy here in Arizona, this means that soccer is growing in the United States and that’s good for our children,” Plascencia said.
The academy will identify, develop and prepare student-athletes to be all they can be – personally, athletically and academically.

Eric Olmeda, parent of a young player, didn’t know about the academy and now that he knows, he is going to consider the academy as an option for his kid.
“I am going to consider that because Barcelona knows how to train kids and that’s something that can benefit my kid on every aspect of his life, either academically of athletically.” Olmeda said.
According to the Grande Sports Academy’s website, every single graduate of their facility has been offered a college scholarship (131) or has signed a professional contract (33).



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