In order to grow the club as a global brand, Real Club Deportivo Espanyol de Barcelona is developing a network of academies around the world.
The newest such fútbol school has opened in Brisbane, Australia.
This internationalisation model kicked off in the 2016/17 season with the launch of two academies and the growth has been gradual since then, reaching the curen position of 11 RCDE Academy sites.
Albert Saus is the manager of the club’s schools and academies department, He had this to say: “We work to create quality local projects around the world and the academy is at the heart of that. We have now reached Oceania, in the city of Brisbane, through an academy that will start activity at the beginning of February 2020.”
RCD Espanyol de Barcelona look at its academy not simply as a place to groom future players but literally as an extension of its brand. The club is creating a global model, opening centres around the world that will introduce the club not just to new players, but to create lifelong fans.
Global academies and football camps
The objective of these academies is to take the identity of RCD Espanyol de Barcelona academy to new territories, where boys and girls between the ages of four and 15 can improve their skills and the 119-year story of the club can be shared.
With the academy in Brisbane, the club is now present across all continents. In addition to Brisbane, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona is also based in Algiers and Tizi Ouzou (Algeria), in Saitama (Japan), in Jersey City, New Jersey (USA), in Baghdad (Iraq), in Helsinki (Finland), in Stockholm (Sweden) and in Shanghai, Shouguang and Hunan (China).
In total, RCD Espanyol has 1,085 boys and girls are training with the club.
In addition to the network of academies, Espanyol has created a football camps program.
Associated with the academies, the RCDE Football Camps consist of standalone training events designed to engage new playing talent around the world. When this project started three years ago, the club held six camps abroad. This year, 29 have already been held. Extending its global reach further, these camps have been carried out in Canada, The USA, Colombia, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Kazakhstan and Japan, among others.
RCD Espanyol de Barcelona now has the second most academies in La Liga that are supervised by club directors.
Growth in China
RCD Espanyol has invested greatly in China. The Catalan side has three of its international academies in the country. Alongside its Chinese ownership, this year’s signing of Chinese forward Wu Lei has helped to boost the club’s standing and presence here. It opened its third academy in China in the months following the signing as interest in the club grew rapidly. In addition, a new RCD Espanyol de Barcelona fan club was established in Shanghai.
Saus explained: “Since [club owners] Rastar Group arrived at the club, our international presence has accelerated, although not only in China. The signing of Wu Lei helped us on the pitch and he also became an ambassador for the club in China. This goes in tandem with the three club academies in China.”
Consolidation in North America and other opportunities
Outside of Asia, the club maintains significant ambitions for growth and is working on consolidating its presence in North America. At the same time, it is also studying opportunities in India and possibly Central Africa.
Espanyol’s strategy definitely brings people from around the world closer to the club. “We want to build brand identity through our youth football because that helps to generate a sense of belonging,” Saus says. “We are seeing more and more members of our international programs joining our club in Spain or becoming fans, which increases our global network significantly.”
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Clubs approach to its USL Championship club seen as a model
MIAMI, Fla. (December 18, 2019) —
Real Monarchs SLC, the second team of MLS club Real Salt Lake, recently won the USL Championship with an impressive 3-1 away victory over Louisville City FC. That result was unexpected, both because of Louisville’s impressive record at home and the fact that they were the two-time defending champions of the USL Championship. They are also one of the most successful independent teams in the USL Championship, with highly engaged fans, active community involvement and a metro government that fully supports the club. In all respects, Louisville has been a model market and team for USL.
By way of a little further background, the USL is comprised both of independent clubs and clubs owned by or affiliated with MLS clubs. The future of the so-called “MLS2” sides in the USL Championship, which constitutes the second division of US Soccer, is currently very much unclear.
The Monarchs’ title took place just a few months after a report circulated that the USL was looking into repositioning all of the MLS-affiliated clubs (colloquially known as “2” teams) out of the Championship and into USL League One, the third division of US Soccer, as soon as 2021. Indeed, the two newest MLS2 teams for next season, New England Revolution 2 and Inter Miami CF 2, will be starting play in USL One.
One of the biggest factors where the disparity between MLS2 teams and independent clubs is on full display is match attendance. Nine of the 10 lowest-drawing sides are MLS-owned. When New York Red Bulls II hosted fellow playoff contender Saint Louis FC in early August, the announced attendance was just 756 fans, which was not far off their season average of 852. The Monarchs’ relatively low 1,983 fans per game made them the second-highest drawing affiliate club (28th in the USL Championship).
Putting attendance aside, naturally, independent clubs organise themselves somewhat differently from MLS owned clubs. But even within the category of MLS2 clubs, there are different philosophies. The Real Salt Lake approach its MLS2 team exhibits more of a hybrid approach. What follows is a discussion of their approach.
The Real Salt Lake Approach To The MLS2 Team
The approach Real Salt Lake takes with its MLS2 side, Real Monarchs could be considered a model of how to organise an MLS2 side, and a “best case” scenario for other MLS2 clubs to borrow from.
The main differentiator is that the first and second teams work in tandem with one another, with plenty of cohesion in training and in style. At other clubs, the MLS and USL sides often train at separate times. Not so in Salt Lake City. By working together every day and having greater movement of players between the two sides, the club ensures that its players have a more cohesive understanding of Real Salt Lake’s philosophy on the pitch at all levels. Midfielder Justin Portillo was a prime example of this, making the RSL matchday roster for 19 matches and the Monarchs’ squad on 16 occasions during the 2019 season.
The results on the pitch suggest that this type of approach to training and having players who can rotate between the MLS and USL sides benefits both squads. Case in point: In MLS, Real Salt Lake finished third in the Western Conference despite firing their coach and their general manager midseason, and they won their first playoff match, against Portland. One rung below in the USL Championship, the Monarchs finished fourth in the conference, then beat top-seed Phoenix Rising, El Paso and then Louisville City to take the title.
While most affiliates have underwhelmed by second-division standards, the Monarchs are among the league’s best clubs — 2 team or otherwise.
“We’re a fully professional second division team,” RSL assistant GM Dan Egner said in an interview before the USL Championship match. Egner serves as the general manager of the USL side. “We have 30 guys on our MLS roster and we have 20 guys on our USL roster. We view that as having one roster of 50 guys — I think that’s a little different than how a lot of people look at it. When that report came out, it was concerning because we think being in the Championship is of the utmost importance for what we’re trying to do. It’s not to say that League One can’t get there; we just don’t feel that it’s there right now. We’re extremely happy with what the Championship provides us.”
Secondly, Real Salt Lake sees Real Monarchs as being a place to develop promising players and to obtain a benefit if or when those players are later transferred. An example of this also happened this last season. Stanley Okumu, a 21-year old centre back who had signed with the Monarchs midway through the 2018 season, was really finding his form in 2019 and was gaining key minutes in the starting eleven for the Monarchs.
Okumu’s good form caught the attention of the selectors of his national team, and he was called up to the Kenya roster for the 2019 African Cup of Nations. He started all three group-stage matches in a group that featured eventual champions Algeria and tournament favourites Senegal. His performance did not go unnoticed. In late August, Okumu secured a transfer to Swedish Allsvenskan side IF Elfsborg. Real Monarchs collected a $200,000 fee as part of the transaction, which was a nice profit — Real Salt Lake had signed him in 2018 on a free transfer from NPSL club AFC Ann Arbor. The club saw the deal as a validation of their ability to develop promising players — even those who do not come through the RSL Academy.
Real Salt Lake could have just moved Okumu up to the first team, since it was clear he was capable of playing at a higher level than the USL Championship. But RSL was already strong at the centre back position, with four capable players on the senior team: Homegrown former U.S. youth international Justen Glad, former Queens Park Rangers anchor Nedum Onuoha, Marcelo Silva and homegrown Erik Holt.
It was at this point that the closeness of the MLS and USL technical staffs resulted in a decision that benefitted both Okumu as well as Real Salt Lake. “After AFCON, we talked to the first-team coaching staff about where we saw Stanley falling in the next six months, even 18 months,” Egner said. “Realistically, his best-case scenario had him as the MLS team’s third centre back. Is that good for Stanley financially? Obviously, an MLS deal is better than his Monarchs’ (deal). But the playing time doesn’t really change because, inevitably, you’re playing the same USL games (on loan from the MLS side). If we could move him somewhere else, that’s going to benefit him and us. He performed very well at AFCON — he was arguably Kenya’s best player, and they were in the toughest group. When the Sweden move became tangible, we acted on it. For us, that move and the news that it made, and the (club) record (transfer fee), the history that it made was more significant for us than him becoming our third centre back.”
A third different way of managing is that the USL Monarchs deploy academy graduates alongside more experienced players in the starting lineup. This is something not widely done on MLS2 sides. After Okumu left for Sweden, homegrown defender Erik Holt made the most of his opportunities, scoring the conference-clinching goal against El Paso Locomotive. Next to him were a pair of USL veterans: 27-year-old Konrad Plewa (formerly of Red Bulls II and Saint Louis FC) and 28-year-old Kalen Ryden (Oklahoma City Energy and the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada).
Fourth, Real Salt Lake and Monarchs work together when an MLS veteran needs playing time to regain form and view it as an opportunity for the younger players on the USL side to interact and see how the older veteran structures his training and carries himself as a professional footballer. This past season, veteran RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland is an example. At 31, he’s the team’s eldest field player by a comfortable margin.
“Naturally, I would have preferred to play a lot of games with the first team,” Mulholland said. “Opportunities were very slim. We’re only happy when you’re playing, you know. It’s an RSL family all under one roof, so I have the ability to make the first team roster one week and drop down to play a game with the Monarchs in the next. I’m in a good position to get some games under my belt and get back into a rhythm of grinding for 90 minutes. That’s what I missed the most.” Mulholland not only regained form but was a key contributor for the Monarchs. He played 12 games for the Monarchs including their postseason run. Their record: 11 wins, one draw, zero defeats. He put in a man-of-the-match-caliber performance in Louisville.
The 31-year-old Englishman had been a fixture in Major League Soccer over the past few years, having made 123 MLS appearances, 97 of them starts. However, the midfielder only had two first team appearances in 2018, and it was Mulholland himself who asked to be placed on the Monarchs. The USL side had the room and since Mulholland would not be preventing a younger player at that position from getting playing time, they agreed. It paid dividends for the Real Monarchs. “I constantly kept asking my coaching staff [to play with the Monarchs],” said Mulholland. “The only way I can help the first team is if I can gain some form and rhythm with the Monarchs so every three weeks or so I’d ask to go down and play for them. And then, I just started to get in a good rhythm with the Monarchs, so it felt great. It always feels good to get 90 minutes under your belt and continuously playing week-in, week-out.” Mulholland was a key contributor for the Monarchs in the USL Championship Playoffs, playing all but 15 minutes as the side navigated its way past Orange County SC, Regular Season Title-Winner Phoenix Rising FC and El Paso Locomotive FC to earn a place in the final.
Fifth, the Monarchs’ approach is to split the minutes between veterans and academy graduates. MLS2 sides have a reputation for sacrificing quality in order to develop younger talent, and the Monarchs’ approach is a contrasting one. In their estimation, splitting the minutes can help accomplish quicker development. They believe it is the best of both philosophies in the USL.
“I don’t say this in a negative way, but we don’t really compare ourselves to other 2 clubs because we feel we’re the only MLS club taking this approach,” Egner said. “That’s not to say that anyone’s approach is right or wrong, but we’re the only one taking the approach that we are. It’s not really fair for us to compare ourselves to them, because they have different motives, a different model. When it comes to independent clubs, we want to beat them. For us, the measuring stick is the independent clubs and how our guys stack up to them. In the last few years, we’re right up there with them.”
Real Monarch players are made aware right off the bat that the club has three objectives, each with equal importance. The first is to help the players get to the first team. The second, should a player not make the MLS roster, is to help them earn another professional contract in a good situation. The third is to win — no matter the opponent or setting.
The first point of the club’s vision shows that while they take a balanced approach, is doesn’t come at the expense of the developmental component. Even in this title-winning season, homegrown players like Holt, U.S. U-20 goalkeeper David Ochoa, and 22-year-old striker Douglas Martínez, an international for Honduras, all played leading roles. Competing against Championship opponents has helped all three to grow in 2019, and each could take on a key role for RSL in the future.
Success is usually emulated, so if Real Monarchs can continue to achieve in the USL Championship, expect more MLS clubs to take notice and set up their MLS2 sides in similar fashion, whether those sides ultimately reside in the second or third division.
(Cover Photo: David R. Lutman/Special To Courier Journal)
Milestone reached on construction site in northern Fort Lauderdale.
MIAMI, Fla. (November 6, 2019) —
Progress continues to be made on the Inter Miami Complex (we’ll call it the “Centro Deportivo”) in Fort Lauderdale, which includes a new stadium, the club’s training complex and Inter Miami CF Academy home.
Last Friday, November 1, the team of on-site construction personnel completed the installation of the first roof structure for the stadium. This milestone comes just weeks after the stadium “went vertical” with steel columns, followed by the installation of componentes of the secondary frame of the metal building as well as the horizontal structural members designed to provide lateral support for wall panels.
The yet-to-be-named, 18,000-capacity stadium (referred to simply as “Fort Lauderdale Stadium” in the interim) will serve as the temporary home of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami for its first two MLS seasons, 2020 and 2021, before the club moves into its home stadium at Miami Freedom Park in Miami.
Fort Lauderdale Stadium is being constructed on the site of the former Lockhart Stadium. It will continue to house Inter Miami’s USL League One team once the first team moves into its Miami home.
Another key moment will be reached in mid-November, when the grass at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and for the training fields is expected to be installed.
Other portions of the 46-acre Centro Deportivo are also progressing. The Training Complex – where Inter Miami’s MLS, USL, and Academy teams will permanently train – is also taking shape. The 50,000-square-foot (4,645 sq. m) building continues to undergo steel, concrete, and roofing installations.
The stadium and training complex at the Centro Deportivo will be ready in time for the beginning of the 2020 season. Here are a couple of preview images released by Inter Miami:
More than 200 people are working as part of the Lockhart Construction Team, including Manica Architecture, Perez & Perez Architects Planners, Bliss & Nitray, Inc. Structural Engineers, SDM Consulting Engineers, Flynn Engineering Services and EDSA, Inc. They will continue their work to deliver this project ahead of Inter Miami’s inaugural season debut in March 2020. Inter Miami’s first home game is tentatively scheduled for March 14, 2020, a date which will be confirmed when MLS releases next season’s calendar in a few weeks.
The Generation adidas Cup is one of the premier competitive youth soccer tournaments in North America. Now in its 13th edition, the tournament is contested among teams at the Under-17 and Under-15 age brackets.
Regional qualifying matches began this Columbus Day weekend (October 11-14) at this year’s host site in Chester, Pennsylvania, home of the Philadelphia Union, at the Power Training Complex!
All matches are free and open to the public. and Live streams of all be the games are available on individual teams’ websites (ex: philadelphia union.com)
In the regional qualifying, MLS teams are divided across three different groups (A, B, C). In addition to the games taking place over Columbus Day, qualifying matches in each group will also occur during the 2020 President’s Day weekend in February.
Teams receive three points for a win, two points for a penalty kick win, one point for a loss on penalties, and zero for a straight loss.
The top two teams from each group will advance to play in Division 1 of the 2020 Generation adidas Cup Finals at the Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, Texas. The third and fourth placed teams from each group will play in Division 2 and the remaining teams will play in Division 3.
The Under-15 age group (players born on or after January, 1, 2005) will again be represented at this year’s finals. 24 U-15 MLS clubs go through Regional Qualifying. The four group winners will advance to the Final Event to compete in an 8-team international challenge.
It is only two months into the Inter Miami CF Academy’s first season, and thus far it has been a fall season that has seen the various youth teams post impressive results. For example, this past weekend, Inter Miami CF Academy teams played nine matches, coming away with wins in eight of those nine, with the other result being a draw.
La Academia teams have already taken part in one international tournament, which also marked the first-ever time a team under the brand of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami has taken the pitch.
Academy teams have also played in front of Inter Miami CF’s official supporters groups in their first home games in South Florida. The fully-funded youth academy is a member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
Learn more about the Academy, its origins, missions, the initial selection process, its focus and more here: The Inter Miami CF Academy
Nine matches were on the slate this past weekend for the Inter Miami CF Academy’s teams. In total, Inter had eight wins and a draw.
The U-19s were also on the road. This time, the club was in Raleigh, NC, to play against North Carolina FC’s Academy side on Saturday, Oct. 5. Federico Tellez scored Inter Miami’s only goal in the 1-1 draw with North Carolina FC.
Meanwhile, the U16/17s played the toughest matches of the weekend. Led by head coach Javier Morales, the Inter squad came out winning by the minimum result of 1-0 over the North Carolina Fusion U16/17s.
A first half goal by Inter Miami’s Oliver Pratt in the 21st minute was the only goal of the match.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, Inter Miami’s U16/17 team won 2-1 against North Carolina FC’s U-17. Goals from Logan Batiste and Alexander Lozano sealed the victory.
The U15s also travelled to Summit, North Carolina, outside of Greensboro, this past weekend for their games.
The Inter U15s faced the North Carolina Fusion U15s. The away side, coached by Abraham Bibas, notched a victory 3-0, earning goalkeeper Javier Barbosa a clean sheet in the process.
Goal Scorers for Inter Miami: Juan Hurtado (9′), Alejandro Vigil (33′) Pedro Faife (55′).
The Inter Miami U-15s also defeated North Carolina FC 2-1. Israel Boatwright and Juan Hurtado were the club’s goal scorers.
The U14s, managed by Philippe-Oliver Cineas, were also playing away to the West Florida Flames. Inter went away with a 4-2 win.
Inter Miami Goal Scorers: Juan Quevedo (5′, 73′), Nyle Waugh (34′, 71′).
The Inter Miami U13s were in action on the road in Brandon, Florida near Tampa, taking on the West Florida Flames. Pedro Cavalcanti’s side devastated the home side in a 14-1 away win.
For the public in Fort Lauderdale, there is much to like about the deal.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 10, 2019) —
It was another win in the books for soccer legend David Beckham. On Tuesday night, his group, which operates under the legal entity known as Miami Beckham United, LLC *1 won an agreement from the City of Fort Lauderdale assures the Major League Soccer team will have a new stadium in time for the start of the 2020 season.
City commissioners unanimously embraced plans to transform the defunct Lockhart Stadium, located off Commercial Boulevard and Northwest 12th Avenue, into a professional soccer centre.
City officials said very little Tuesday, and Beckham and his business partners were not present.*2 Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis was very pleased by the result.
“This is a really a wonderful turning point in our community,” Mayor Trantalis said. “Congratulations. We’ll be there for the first kick.”
While Beckham’s ultimate goal is to build his team’s home stadium in Miami, and to use the planned Fort Lauderdale stadium as a training hub for cultivating soccer talent, the immediate problem of finding a suitable place to play in the meantime is solved. For at least the first two seasons, starting next March, Beckham’s new Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, will play in Fort Lauderdale.
The 18,000-seat Fort Lauderdale stadium and the 25,000-seat Miami stadium would be about an hour apart, by car.
For the public in Fort Lauderdale, the transformation will include sports fields, a city park and a home football field for two high schools — Fort Lauderdale and Stranahan — that currently have none.
Already, Lockhart Stadium and the adjacent Fort Lauderdale Stadium have been demolished.
The name of the new sports stadium hasn’t been announced. The agreement approved Tuesday says the group can name any portion of the Inter Miami site, including the stadium, without the city’s consent, “provided such name shall not be in bad taste or offensive to the city’s image, or in the reasonable opinion of the City Commission is a source of embarrassment to the Fort Lauderdale community.”
Commissioner Heather Moraitis said she supports retaining the “Lockhart” name, after former city commissioner H. Y. “Doug” Lockhart. The decision rests on Miami Beckham United, though. Securing a naming rights agreement would be a logical step and one which can bring in revenue that would be used to offset operating costs. While naming rights agreements vary in length and terms, many are between 5 and 7 years in length.
Under the terms of the deal, no money changes hands. In return for use of the property for 50 years, Beckham United will construct sports fields, a trail, playground, and park space on the southern portion of the property, for the community. The agreement expires on December 31, 2069, but Inter Miami can renew the lease agreement for a five-year term. Thereafter, by mutual agreement, the lease can be renewed for two additional five-year terms.
The city intends to use some of its $200 million parks bond, approved by voters in November, to enhance the new city park there.
Other terms of the deal:
FOOD, DRINKS: The Inter Miami group can operate concessions, including any restaurant, sports bar or tavern.
COMMUNITY: At least 24 days a year, local high schools will have access to Inter Miami’s turf field for high school football or soccer events. In addition, four days a year, the city can use Inter Miami’s stadium for football, soccer, JROTC, band concerts or other community events.
SPELLING: The agreement says that “Miami Beckham shall endeavour in good faith not to abbreviate the word ‘Fort’ in city’s name in any written promotional materials.”
MONEY: Miami Beckham United will pay the estimated $60 million to construct all improvements. After that, the group will pay to operate and maintain just the Inter Miami portion, which includes a stadium and a 50,000 square foot training facility with locker rooms, weight rooms, classrooms, and dining facilities.
DEADLINE: All the work is to be completed within three years, but if it’s not, the city’s only recourse is to take over construction of the public portion, and bill it to Miami Beckham United.
And say this for Beckham: He somehow lasted the process. He needed some local muscle like Mas being added. But even if you didn’t follow all the ins and outs, the commission meetings and changed stadium sites, Beckham lasting six years through this fight is as revealing as the finish line drawing near.
“I had no idea,” Beckham said. “I honestly thought I’d announce the team and we’d be up and playing in a year. Not because of who I am. Just because I felt there was such a movement in this country and such a moment in the MLS and this sport that I just assumed it would be pretty easy to start a team.”
*1 – Miami Beckham United, LLC is a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation duly authorised to conduct business in the State of Florida.
*2 – The ownership group consists of Jorge and Jose Mas, chairman and CEO, respectively, of MasTec engineering and construction company; Marcelo Claure, co-founder of Brightstar Corp. and chief operating officer for SoftBank, which owns Sprint, and billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son, founder and executive chairman of SoftBank.