Orlando City is revamping its youth academy system, partnering with the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy to develop young talent that could one day play for the Lions’ MLS squad.
Montverde will manage and operate the youth program, with Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 boys teams moving from Sylvan Lake Park in Seminole County to the Montverde campus in Lake County
The girls’ teams and the boys Under-12 through Under-14 groups will remain the same and continue to use Sylvan Lake Park facilities.
Some soccer institute athletes may join Orlando City academy players, but they will continue to have a separate training opportunity at Montverde if they don’t qualify for the Lions’ academy.
“We’re very excited to work together and combine our resources to create what we feel is a fantastic development opportunity for youth soccer players in Florida and throughout the country,” said Mike Potempa, a former U.S. youth national team player and All-American at Clemson University who directs the Montverde soccer institute.
Current Orlando City Development Academy players will not have to pay any extra fees to train at Montverde, with the new program subsidized by the Lions. If the academy players wish to enroll in Montverde classes or stay at the boarding school, they could apply for financial support from the private school.
“This is an entirely new strategy designed to increase and grow the overall investment in our development academy while offering our younger players the best development opportunities,” Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão said in a news release. “[Soccer Institute of Montverde Academy] is an accomplished program with a consistent track record of producing top young talents and exceptional young adults.”
Orlando City assistant coach and academy technical director Bobby Murphy will oversee the development of academy prospects in conjunction with Potempa.
Montverde has had a connection with Orlando City when the Lions first relocated from Texas to Florida, but talks about merging academy operations didn’t heat up until the past eight months. While the partnership is still relatively young, Potempa said he has a sense of Lions coach Jason Kreis’ tactics and preferences.
“I’ve seen his philosophy and what he’s looking for,” Potempa said. “… We want to develop what he wants today for Orlando City’s first team.”
The Montverde soccer program has earned multiple national championships. It has produced 17 athletes who have signed professional contracts at 18 years old in Major League Soccer (MLS), the United Soccer League (USL) and various leagues around the world.
There are limitations on international student participation in the academy under FIFA rules, but the academy staff expects to soon recruit talent beyond the Orlando area. Athletes from Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville had difficulty joining Orlando City’s academy in the past and out-of-state athletes also faced travel issues, but Montverde’s housing makes recruiting players from those areas an option.
The academy changes won’t impact Orlando City’s plans to build a new training facility at Lake Nona. The club is still in the process of developing a facility that will primarily house the Major League Soccer team. Plans originally included space for the academy, but those operations are now shifting to Montverde.
Weatherholt inks new deal
Orlando Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt has signed a new contract with the club. In accordance with team and league policies, terms of the contact were not announced.
“We’re delighted to have agreed to a new deal with Dani,” Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni said in a news release. “Dani had a terrific 2017 season and has taken great steps in her development over her two years with us. We look forward to seeing her continuing to grow and contributing to the Pride in 2018.”
Weatherholt, 23, was the Pride’s third pick (31st overall) in the 2016 NWSL College Draft out of Santa Clara University. In 2017, Weatherholt appeared in 19 matches (17 starts) and scored her first professional goal on Aug. 12, helping the team earn a record-setting win over Sky Blue FC. Weatherholt also added one assist, setting up Alex Morgan’s 92nd-minute goal on Sept. 7 against Seattle Reign FC.
In 2016, the San Clemente, Calif., native made 12 appearances, nine of them starts, during her first season with Orlando.