CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – The Grande Sports Academy home of the Real Salt Lake Arizona Academy enters its fourth season in U.S. Soccer Development with a massive target on their back. Though, the residential Academy has always had a target on their back due to the immediate success the Academy has had over the previous three seasons, this target is a little different and a point of pride for the Academy. Last season, the U-16 squad defeated Solar Chelsea 4-2 in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week Championship; becoming the first residential Academy in the nation to win an Academy championship.
Eighteen players from the championship squad return and half of those players are U-18s; filling positions that have been held down by what say people inside the Academy call “the foundation”.
In the inaugural season of the Academy, and not knowing what to expect after moving hundreds of miles away from family and friends, both Academy teams quickly bonded and became one of the few Academies in the nation to qualify the U-16 and U-18 teams for the playoffs. The U-16 team would eventually advance all the way to the final group round and finish third in the country.
Coach Freddy Juarez always sees the players who finished third as the ones who laid “the foundation”. Since that finish many of them have gone on and achieved success at higher levels of soccer.
In just three years, 54 seniors have earned college scholarships while 9 players have signed professional contracts with clubs in 5 different countries: (4) Real Salt Lake; MLS, Seattle Sounders; MLS, Brondby IF; Danish Superliga, , Molde FK; Norweigan Tippeligaen, Bayer Laverkusen; German Bundesliga, Lorient FC; French Ligue I.
Numerous players on “the foundation” squad and the championship squad and earned a call up to the Real Salt Lake Reserve League team and many of them have been called up to the U.S. national team. A few international players in our Academy have played matches with the Canadian national team and El Salvador nnational team.
The 2012-13 season was not just a banner year because the U-16s won the championship, but also because of the accolades that were bestowed upon the squad and individual players. Two players from each Academy team were named to 2012-13 USSDA U-16 Starting XI and U-18 Starting XI and the Academy was awarded the prestigious Style of Play award by U.S. Soccer.
In the 2011-12 Academy season one player was awarded the prestigious U-16 Player of the Year award and two academy players were awarded USSDA Western Conference Player of the Year awards in the U-16 and U-18 age categories
Many suggest the residency setup has helped the Academy achieve the quick success and they are quick to forget the Real Salt Lake Academy is housed in a new state-of-the-art $20 million facility, which is where 15 MLS teams have trained.
The exact cause to the success of the Academy may always be a mystery and for now the hard-working efforts by the coaches, players, staff, management and others is clearly enough to continue what “the foundation” laid.
- 54 seniors have earned college scholarships in just our third year
- Four players signed professional contracts with MLS’s Real Salt Lake
- One player signed a professional contract with MLS’s Seattle Sounders
- One player signed a professional contract with Brondby IF in the Danish Superliga
- One player signed a professional contract with Molde FK in the Norweigan Tippeligaen
- One player signed a professional contract with Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga
- RSL-AZ academy players play on Real Salt Lake’s Reserve Team
- U16 Academy team won the USSDA 2012/2013 National Champinoships
- Awarded the 2013 Style of Play award by US Soccer
- Two players names to 2012/2013 USSDA U16 Starting XI
- Two players names to 2012/2013 USSDA U18 Starting XI
- One academy player was awarded the prestigious USSDA 2011/2012 U16 Player of the Year award
- Two academy players awarded USSDA 2011/2012 Western Conference Player of the Year awards in U16 and U18 age categories
- Two academy players named to NSCAA All- America
- Training where 15 MLS teams have trained and played
- New state-of-the-art $20 million facilities