Jose E. Garcia covers soccer for The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.
U.S. Soccer accepts AZ as academy member
The United States Soccer Development Academy recently accepted its new club, an Arizona member from Casa Grande that is becoming a leader in the state’s soccer community.
The academy sponsors a league that features the elite boys soccer players in the nation. It’s a league that focuses on the development of players instead of wins, and that fits Greg Vanney’s coaching philosophy.
Vanney runs the Casa Grande soccer facility, Grande Sports World, at the Francisco Grande resort.
“I think Arizona’s soccer community has been somewhat underserved at the highest level of soccer,” Vanney said. “We have no pro teams. Players always complain that they haven’t gotten the opportunities to get scouted. With this academy, U.S. Soccer scouts will scout every player 10 times during the year. It’s a place where colleges are scouting. It’s a system where the resources are coming to the kids.”
The teams participating in the academy are fully funded, so families don’t have to pay for the training or travel. The players who represent Arizona in the academy will wear Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake’s colors.
RSL and adidas will provide the uniforms for the players. Vanney wants to start a modified residency program by 2011 for a small group of players, with those players living, studying and training at Francisco Grande.
“We have been moving quickly,” Vanney said. “We will be the model for what U.S. Soccer is looking to accomplish.”
Vanney is finalizing the training schedule for tryouts for the two Arizona teams (under-18 and under-16) that will compete in the U.S. Soccer Academy.
The majority of the state’s club teams have agreed to let their top players participate with Vanney, he said. Former pros Michael Munoz and Juergen Sommer and Vanney will serve as the coaches for Arizona’s Real Salt Lake teams.