Sunday, November 19, 2017
tbt*

European soccer clubs open U.S. academies to find talent, fans

RECOMMENDED READING


MADE IN THE

USA

European soccer powers are opening U.S. academies to grow talent and revenue.

As the U.S. appetite for soccer grows, more American kids are harboring dreams of becoming the next David Beckham or Leo Messi. Their aspirations, realistic or not, have not gone unnoticed by top international teams, which are trying to capitalize financially.

European clubs like Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal have long sent coaches to work at U.S. summer camps, but now some are opening year-round U.S. academies aimed at finding new talent while also expanding their fan bases and revenue opportunities. Later this month, ­Barcelona will open FCB Escola Florida, its first permanent U.S academy, in Fort Lauderdale. Argentine Boca Juniors and English Everton are already operating in New York and Connecticut, respectively. Other teams are expected to ­follow.

The expansion of such programs is part of a bigger trend, as major international clubs try to grow their brands in the U.S. to battle for the hearts and pocketbooks of Americans today and in decades to come. Building an international fan base is becoming important for the top teams, which derive a large chunk of their revenue from overseas broadcasting and ­merchandising.

"If you can engage kids when they are young, then they will stay with you for the rest of their lives," says Simon Chadwick, a sports economist at England's University of Coventry.

The U.S. soccer audience is reaching new heights, with this summer's World Cup setting ratings records. NBC is paying $250 million to broadcast the English Premier League. A record crowd of 109,318 packed Michigan Stadium on Aug. 2 to see an exhibition match between Manchester United and Real Madrid. Major League Soccer is averaging more than 18,000 per game, just off its 2012 high.

When teams started opening schools around the world back in the 1990s, their early impulse was to scout and develop players. Now, their main goal is to build their brand, says Simon Kuper, the author of several books on the economics of sports.

One of the first overseas academies was launched in 1999 by Dutch Ajax in Cape Town, South Africa. The club says it produced an average of seven pro players a year. A handful of them have made it to European leagues.

Barcelona chose South Florida for its first U.S. academy and its 12th worldwide. More than 600 boys and girls attended tryouts in May, some coming from other states and countries, like Haiti, Venezuela and Canada, to vie for 384 spots. The winners will pay $3,000 annually to attend the academy, which does not include room, board or schooling. Some parents say they will move their family to South Florida if their child is picked.

Marcel Bombonato, the managing director of Kaptiva Sports, official partner of FC Barcelona in the U.S., says scouting is one of the goals. But beyond teaching soccer, the club wants to convert children into Barcelona fans.

Around 3,200 children attended seven soccer camps held this summer by Barcelona across the eastern U.S. Each day they listened to the team's Cant del Barca, and at a recent Miami camp most of the 245 children clad in Barcelona colors clapped their hands and chanted the chorus, "Barca, Barca, Barca."

Many parents see these programs as an opportunity for their children to showcase their talents and hopefully be recruited for the team's La Masia academy. Messi left Argentina for Spain at the age of 13 after being discovered by a Barcelona scout.

Ali Rafique brought his 6-year-old son Toby to the camp in Miami from Dallas. Toby trains more than 20 hours per week between his practices with a personal coach and the Dallas Texans under-7 team. He wants to eventually play for Barcelona.

"I am gonna work hard to make his dream come true," said his father.

Argentinian Boca Juniors, known as one of the largest exporters of players to the leagues in Europe, opened its academy in Long Island, New York, in March. The team is still recruiting 200 boys and girls aged 4 to 23.

Mariano Berenstein, the CEO of Boca Juniors in the U.S, says that unlike other international teams, Boca Juniors is concerned with developing local talent, rather than just monetizing the brand. He said that other teams promise young children that they have a chance to play at their home-based academies and advance up to the main team. Instead, Boca Juniors wants to build an American version with the hope that the most talented players would play in MLS.

We will not, Berenstein says, make "empty promises" to players.

Comments
Local craft beer of the week: Pep in Yo Step Double IPA, Infusion Brewing Co.

Local craft beer of the week: Pep in Yo Step Double IPA, Infusion Brewing Co.

Pepper beers walk a fine line. The best ones, as is the case with most spicy endeavors, are as much about flavor as they are heat.Some, like Twisted Pine’s Ghost Face Killah, exist almost solely to push the boundaries of what one person can consume (...
Published: 11/16/17
Local craft beer of the week: Brett Singel Aged on Plums, Crooked Thumb Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Brett Singel Aged on Plums, Crooked Thumb Brewing

It’s been nearly a year since the first bottle release from Safety Harbor’s Crooked Thumb Brewing. Two brews were released at that event, both from the brewery’s Abbey of the South series, a line of brews inspired by the iconic styles traditionally b...
Published: 11/09/17
She flipped off Trump — and got fired from her government contracting job

She flipped off Trump — and got fired from her government contracting job

It was the middle-finger salute seen around the world.Juli Briskman’s protest aimed at the presidential motorcade that roared past her while she was on her usual cycling ride in Northern Virginia last month became an instantly viral photo.Turns out i...
Published: 11/06/17

David Lennon: Astros-Dodgers provided epic Series, until Game 7

BC-BBO-LENNON-COLUMN-1ST-LEDE:ND - sports (700 words),0755David Lennon: Astros-Dodgers provided epic Series, until Game 7(EDITORS: This story may not be used on websites) (PHOTOS)By David LennonNewsday (TNS)LOS ANGELES - The Dodgers tapped franchise ...
Updated one month ago
Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Blonde ale, St. Pete Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Blonde ale, St. Pete Brewing

One of the major benefits of visiting your local brewery is the ability to try one-off batches, often versions of flagship offerings with various flavoring additions.Some of these beers eventually make it to the production level, like Cigar City’s Wh...
Updated one month ago
Kelly’s Civil War remarks: ‘Strange,’ ‘sad,’ and ‘wrong’

Kelly’s Civil War remarks: ‘Strange,’ ‘sad,’ and ‘wrong’

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was the guest for the premiere of Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News Monday night. During the interview, he outlined a view of the history of the Civil War that historians described as "strange," "highly provocati...
Updated one month ago
Mueller strikes as a small player flips on, well, we’ll see

Mueller strikes as a small player flips on, well, we’ll see

Although the biggest news Monday were the indictments Robert Mueller handed down against former President Donald Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, there was also news of a plea bargain with a heretofore minor figure in the Russia scandal by t...
Updated one month ago

Trump sounds a scattershot alarm

On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump expressed frustration that his campaign is under investigation over possible ties to Russia’s plot to influence the 2016 election but that his former opponent Hillary Clinton is not facing the same level of s...
Updated one month ago
Why care about a shoe emoji? It hurts

Why care about a shoe emoji? It hurts

An online brouhaha has erupted over women’s shoes. Well, not real shoes. Emoji shoes. The red emoji stiletto, to be specific. The semi-controversy was sparked by public-relations expert Florie Hutchinson’s campaign to persuade the Unicode Emoji Subco...
Updated one month ago
Local craft beer of the week: Salt-Peter Soft Pickle Gose from Southern Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Salt-Peter Soft Pickle Gose from Southern Brewing

We’ll just go ahead and ignore the name here, instead focusing on the fact that, yes, this is a pickle-flavored beer.And you know? That’s not quite as odd as it sounds. Pickle juice and booze are a classic combo, whether it’s the Russian custom of ea...
Updated one month ago