United States. Brazil. Korea Republic. Turkey. Casa Grande?
Casa Grande isn’t a soccer power, but it is home to an academy whose teams will take the same fields this week in Phoenix as national teams from the aforementioned countries.
It’s all part of a weeklong U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase, which starts today at the Reach 11 Sports Complex
Headlining this festival are the Under-17 boys teams of the U.S., Brazil, Korea Republic and Turkey, which will compete in the Nike International Friendlies round-robin tournament. U.S. games, starting with tonight’s 5 p.m. match against Korea, will be televised by Fox Soccer.
Joining them are dozens of U.S. youth teams, primarily funded by Major League Soccer teams and with direct access to U.S. national teams. The development academy gathers all of its teams twice a year – Phoenix is one of the locations this year – to allow U.S. national team scouts, college coaches and international scouts to evaluate players.
MSL’s Real Salt Lake operates the Casa Grande academy, which joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy this year.
“Our little shop in Casa Grande has really hit the scene in terms of soccer in this country,” said Greg Vanney, a former pro player from Tempe who runs the academy.
RLS has filled its rosters with about 45 players, including 24 athletes who live and train at the Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort. Some of those players are Arizona athletes, such as Tempe Corona del Sol goalkeeper Matt Bersano.
The other young RLS stars are mostly from southwest states that aren’t scouted as much.
“This winter showcase is a good coming out party for our guys,” Vanney said. “It’s a great opportunity to step out and make a statement.”
By Jose E. Garcia The Arizona Republic