AZ’s 1st soccer residency program begins
The plan was to have kids living at the complex to play soccer and going to school by next year.
But things are going so well at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande that the first group to join the facility’s soccer residency program moved in for this school year. Nineteen soccer standouts from throughout the United States, including three from Arizona, are living and training at the Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort, the home of the Grande Sports World facility.
The facility is just the second residency soccer program in the U.S. that’s similar to the U.S. national youth soccer team residency program in Florida. The first non-Florida soccer residency program, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, is in Minnesota and offers on-campus schooling.
But unlike Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Grande Sports World is home to the first soccer residency program in the U.S. associated with a Major League Soccer team, Real Salt Lake. The 19 players living on the resort attend either Casa Grande High School or Casa Grande’s newest high school, Vista Grande, and then train in the afternoon on the resort’s soccer facility.
The facility is looking to implement on-site schooling next year. Five of the 19 residency players have played for either the Under-16 or Under-18 U.S. national boys teams.
Tempe Corona del Sol goalkeeper Matt Bersano and midfielder Casey Phillips and Sierra Vista Buena goalkeeper Tyler Wilson will be the first Arizona products to participate in the residency Real Salt Lake program in Casa Grande. Bersano and Phillips helped Corona del Sol win the Class 5A Division I title last season but will spend their senior years in Casa Grande.
Joining the Arizona products this year is goalkeeper Eduardo Fernandez, and American citizen with dual citizenship who was on Mexico’s Under-17 national team. The residency program will have an Under-16 and 18 boys teams and will travel throughout the school year to compete in a national league and in some national and international events.
Twenty-three other players from Arizona have also joined the Real Salt Lake youth academy in Casa Grande but aren’t part of the residency program. Greg Vanney is the director of the program.
“It’s exciting for the residency program,” Vanney said. “There’s been a lot of good response to it. It’s not just a soccer program. We want it to be filled with good people and hard workers. We want them to stay on top of their schooling and to have a good balance life with their school, soccer and lifestyles.”