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Grande Sports reflects growing trend of academies over club teams

Grande Sports reflects growing trend of academies over club teams

by Eric Newman | Cronkite News

Jose Hernandez followed his graduation from the Grande Sports Academy with a year of college soccer at UCLA. He is currently in his rookie season with Real Salt Lake in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Eric Newman/Cronkite News)

As Major League Soccer made developing local talent for its teams a priority in recent years, the Grande Sports Academy was an early player in the trend of the sport’s elite moving away from U.S. club and high school programs in favor of attending academies.

Grande, a full-time, year-round residency in Casa Grande that opened in 2010, is the first of its kind in MLS and the only one in Arizona. Until recently, it partnered with Real Salt Lake of Salt Lake City as a funnel for players into the professional ranks. Grande’s athletes live on site in dormitories, with access to performance and nutritional facilities as well as a branch of ASU Preparatory Academy for classes on campus.

“I think, especially with how soccer is growing in the country, the academy has taken over the past six or seven years now. Club soccer is pretty much dying out,” said Jose Hernandez, a Grande graduate who played collegiately at UCLA before signing with Real Salt Lake this season. “(Academies are) where all the big schools are looking to recruit from now. They don’t really look at high school soccer as much as they used to.”

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