ORLANDO — One of the world’s largest soccer clubs is looking to make its mark in Florida.
FC Barcelona announced Thursday it is establishing an academy in Orlando, its 50th youth academy across the world. The first public tryout for the academy will be held at Austin Tindall Regional Park in Kissimmee on June 8 for youths ages 5 to 18 years old.
“One of the main goals of Barça Academy has always been to give players around the world the opportunity to be exposed to our methodology, acquire our core values and soccer capacities,” Barça Academy director Carles Martin said in a statement. “We serve this purpose and are strongly committed to supporting their highest development during their whole pathway.”
Barcelona officials confirmed to Pro Soccer USA there isn’t any collaboration between the La Liga giant and MLS side Orlando City SC in this endeavor. Orlando City’s development academy is based out of Montverde Academy in Clermont, Fla, which is in Lake County. Orlando City’s USL League One side, Orlando City B, also plays there.
The new Barça Academy will have its roots in Orange County, if all goes according to plan. During its first year, it’ll use facilities at Austin Tindall Regional Park and Boone High School.
By fall 2020, the hope is that the academy will be based out of a multi-use facility Orange County Commissioner Mayra Uribe has planned for the site of Pine Castle Little League Area off West Oak Ridge Road.
The cost of the project would be about $1 million, Uribe said. That money would come from the leftover INVEST fund established by previous Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs. Uribe envisions the facility as a place for people to come together.
“They have three baseball fields and unfortunately only one is used,” Uribe, who represents District 3, told Pro Soccer USA. “The county is going to acquire the property, it’s getting deeded over to us, and we’re going to turn that into a multi-sport center where we can offer, on top of soccer, flag football, lacrosse and baseball for kids.”
The academy will be overseen by a yet-to-be-named technical director from FC Barcelona who will move to Orlando.
Uribe said she’s been working on bringing a Barcelona academy to the area since she was first elected in November 2018.
“I grew up with soccer,” Uribe said. “My mother’s from Argentina, my dad’s Colombian, my dad was on a soccer club when I was a kid. We spent our weekends playing soccer. Soccer’s in my blood.”
She added, “For me, I just hope we find the next Leo Messi, the next Ronaldo, because we have a lot of great talent here. To be able to offer this to children and have that exposure to not only the training, but the character training that they teach, is fantastic.”
FC Barcelona’s other U.S.-based academies are in Charlotte, N.C., Austin, Texas, Northern Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, San Diego, Chicago and Nashville, Tenn.
“This is a unique opportunity for Orlando-area youth to receive the methodology and values from coaches with one of the premier soccer clubs in the world,” FC Barcelona managing director America Xavi O’Callaghan said in a statement.
Registration for the academy is open via its website.