FC BARCELONA TO OPEN SOCCER ACADEMY IN AUSTIN

It’s part of Span­ish soccer gi­ant’s push for big­ger foot­print in U.S.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Lyt­tle klyt­tle@states­man.com

FC Barcelona, ar­guably the most pow­er­ful soccer club in the world, will open a train­ing academy in Austin this year, with fa­cil­i­ties at Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas and the new Round Rock Mul­tipur­pose Com­plex.

The move is part of the Span­ish gi­ant’s push for a big­ger foot­print in the United States and a world­wide boost of its FCB Es­cola project.

FCB Es­cola is the soccer club’s flag­ship school, aimed at play­ers ages 6 to 16. FCB Es­cola, which teaches Barça method­ol­ogy and style of play, has acad­e­mies in such ma­jor in­ter­na­tional mar­kets as Tokyo, Dubai, São Paulo and Moscow.

“This new pro­gram will not only help lo­cal play­ers ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand the best in­ter­na­tional, pro­fes­sional and de­vel­op­men­tal soccer path­way but will also put Austin on a global soccer stage,” said Marc Se­garra, co-founder of ISL Futbol, a sports man­age­ment com­pany that’s the largest part­ner of FC Barcelona in the United States.

De­tails and dates have yet to be worked out, but the open­ing of the train­ing academy at COTA is tar­geted for this sum­mer. Or­ga­niz­ers hope to re­veal more about their plans, in­clud­ing Round Rock’s in­volve­ment, in early April.

‘This whole project is re­ally great news for our area.’ Bobby Ep­stein COTA chair­man

“Any­time you can have your name at­tached to FC Barcelona, it is a big deal,” said Lance Aldridge, exec- utive di­rec­tor of the Austin Sports Com­mis­sion. “The Barcelona peo­ple looked around at a lot of places, but they wanted to be here.

“We’re al­ready hear­ing quite a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion. This could be a ma­jor boost to the soccer pro­file of Austin.”

Fi­nan­cial terms of the deal were not dis­closed, but Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas Chair- man Bobby Ep­stein said he will fund the con­struc­tion of the train­ing com­plex, which

will be ad­ja­cent to the Austin 360 Am­phithe­atre.

“This field will be a sig- nif­i­cant in­vest­ment for us, and we hope lo­cal clubs hold their­big games there, as well as serv­ing to help attract youth tour­na­ment games,” Ep­stein told the Amer­i­can-States­man. “It’s

close to South­east Metro Park and could prove to be synergistic.”

Ep­stein also hinted at a pos­si­ble ex­pan­sion of the soccer com­plex.

“Ini­tially there will be one spec­tac­u­lar, cham­pi­onship field. For train­ing, the acad- emy will break it into two

train­ing fields,” he said. “The field has been part of the mas­ter plan since the

(cir­cuit’s) grand plaza was de­signed be­fore the venue opened.”

Ep­stein pointed out many of COTA’s sig­na­ture struc­tures were de­signed by Austin ar­chi­tect Juan Miró, a na­tive of Barcelona who grew up near Camp Nou, the soccer club’s his­toric home.

While fans shouldn’t ex­pect Barcelona stars Lio- nel Messi, Ney­mar or Luis Suárez to show up in Austin, FCB Es­cola plans to pump some big names into the project.

An FC Barcelona tech- nical di­rec­tor, sev­eral for

mer Barcelona play­ers and UEFA Pro li­censed coaches will be sent to the Austin school, club of­fi­cials said. Coaches will work full time

and es­tab­lish res­i­dency in Austin. Ad­di­tion­ally, cer­tain play

ers could be se­lected for an “FCB Ex­pe­ri­ence,” a trip to Barcelona to prac­tice and play.

Austin also will have an FCB Es­cola camp this sum­mer, with de­tails about the event com­ing next month. FCB Es­cola al­ready has camps in such U.S. cities as Wash­ing­ton, Chicago, St. Louis and Sacra­mento.

“This whole project is re­ally great news for our area,” Ep­stein said. “Lance Aldridge and our city sports com­mis­sion re­ally pulled this to­gether. And we’re show­ing at COTA that we’re more than a race track.” Con­tact Kevin Lyt­tle at 512445-3615.

CONTRIBUTED BY JAMES H. LOV­ING

FC Barcelona, ar­guably the most pow­er­ful soccer club in the world, will open an academy in Austin, with train­ing fields at Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas and in Round Rock.

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