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 world-wide boost of its FCB Escola project.
FCB Escola is the soccer club’s flagship school, aimed at players between the ages of 6 and 16. FCB Escola, which teaches Barca methodology and style of play, has academies in such major international markets as Tokyo, Dubai, Sao Paolo 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.
“Any time you can have your name attached to FC Barcelona, it is a big deal,” said Lance Aldridge, executive 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 chairman 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 significant investment for us, and we hope local clubs hold their big 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 academy 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 Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez to show up in Austin, FCB Escola plans to pump some big names into the project.
An FC Barcelona technical director, several former 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 players 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.”