Background

Barça Residency Academy opened in August of 2017. It is first and foremost a part of FC Barcelona. Therefore, two project directors, appointed by the club, oversee the academy. This means that all players and coaching staff are trained using Barça’s principles. 

The Academy uses the very same methods that are used at La Masia in Catalonia. In fact, top performers are even invited to train in Barcelona with the La Masia teams. Despite no player having signed with FC Barcelona from the Residency Academy yet, the experience is beneficial and a special moment for the boys. 

Player Development

Located at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona, the complex includes eight pitches, a performance center, accommodation for players, as well a hotel and golf course. The vast campus offers young players the ability to train in professional settings with professional-grade equipment. For instance, in the performance center, young players have access to high-quality gym and recovery equipment.

The teams at the Academy cover the U15 to U19 levels. They compete in the newly formed MLS Next league and United Premier Soccer League. Formerly, Barça Residency was a member of US Soccer’s Development Academy. A result of being involved in these groups, is insurance that the players coming through the academy are exposed to the highest level of competition available in the US. 

Personal Development

In addition to investing in the development of youth as players, Barça Residency invests in the boys as people. Academically, the academy players are enrolled in Arizona State University Preparatory Academy. Which has classrooms on site. The curriculum is also designed to allow for school work to be completed online. Therefore, students can study and complete homework while traveling for matches. 

A part of being a residency academy is that the boys live on site. As a result, they learn important life skills. Such as managing their laundry and keeping their room clean. They are learning to take responsibility for their own lives. Additionally, the boys learn the importance of friendship and commodore, having all left home to pursue their dreams. 

The academy has residence staff to assist the boys with everyday needs. The staff also take them off campus regularly to places like movies and the mall. Throughout the year, they organize events and longer trips off-campus for the boys as well. Their goal is to ensure the players still get to be teenagers, despite the rigorous training schedule.

Barça Residency Academy Success Rate

Barça Residency has been extremely successful despite only being a few years old. Every player from the academy has gotten a college scholarship or signed a professional contract. Recent Barça graduates include young MLS stars Caden Clark (NYRB), Julian Araujo (LAG), and Bryce Duke (LAFC). In Germany, recent graduate Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04) is working his way toward a Bundesliga debut.

A part of  FC Barcelona’s Residency Academy’s success, is the ability to operate outside of MLS homegrown territories. Where MLS academies are limited in who they can recruit, Barça Residency Academy is not. Therefore players can attend and continue to develop in a top academy, regardless of if the MLS club with their rights signs them. Additionally, it allows Barça Residency to recruit nationally. Therefore, they get the players best suited for their program, maximizing effectiveness. The residency aspect also prevents the entire family from moving in order to accommodate academy enrollment. 

The Catch

The downside to running a residency program is the cost. The raw cost of sending a player to Barça Residency is in excess of $70,000 a year. For many players, that is beyond what the family can afford. The saving grace at Barça Residency is the scholarship program. Due to sponsorships and the financial backing of a massive club like FC Barcelona, the academy is able to provide scholarships. In some cases covering up to the entire cost of attendance.

Unfortunately, the cost of running residency academies prevents more clubs from investing in creating their own. Without large sums of donated money or the backing of multi-million dollar clubs, it is unlikely the residency model will become commonplace. It simply is not feasible for most clubs to run such an expensive program without increasing the cost of academy enrollment drastically.

Barça Residency Academy, A Special Place

Since there are so few residency academies, the FC Barcelona Residency Academy becomes all the more special. The connection with FC Barcelona also enables players to have exposure to some of the best youth training techniques in the world. Additionally, living on campus grows the players into professionals both on and off the pitch. Graduating from Barcelona’s residency acadmey prepares young boys for life, if they chose to play professionally or not. 

Overall, Barça Residency Acadmey is a one-of-a-kind in the US. Despite being in its infancy, they are already producing top prospects. There will be many more in years to come. As the academy grows and becomes more established, the success rate should continue grow. This is just the beginning.

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Videos

About the Residency Acadmey
The 2019 trip to La Masia