Major League Soccer and Audi announced today a new initiative called Audi Goals Drive Progress, which will provide more resources for MLS academies. The initiative will result in a new education performance center located at the new Orlando City SC training facility in Kissimmee — the first Audi Performance Center. The announcement was made at Exploria Stadium by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Audi of America Vice President of Marketing Loren Angelo, Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi, and program spokesman Taylor Twellman prior to the MLS All-Star Game.
Audi Performance Centers, located at select MLS academies, will be equipped with a vast range of technology, tutorial, and educational resources to help enrich off-field academic development. Orlando’s is slated to open its doors in late summer of 2019.
“I think it directly impacts everything,” said Muzzi. “These kids are driving like 45 minutes to get (to training). They’re going to public schools — the great public schools we have in all counties here — and then we’re going to be able to supplement that. It’s an additional resource. We get resources for them that, when they are training, they can stay, they can do their homework, they can do video, they can do anything there. So it makes everything better.”
In April 2018, Orlando City SC announced that it was moving the headquarters of its development academy to Montverde Academy. This provided the ability for the players to be housed, educated, and trained at the same location.
On Nov. 1 of last year, the club announced that it would be moving the senior team, Orlando City B, and its development academy to a new facility at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee. This meant that OCB and the development academy would be leaving Montverde Academy.
It’s essential for the success of the club that its academy players are able to live, train, and be educated in the same location. This allows the players to remain on-site, to avoid lengthy transportation to the facility, and for their education to coincide with their soccer training. When the announcement was made that the club would be departing Montverde Academy, questions arose about how the players would be housed and educated at the new facility.
Although there won’t be a true residency program for the academy yet, Muzzi said that is a step the club wants to take down the road.
“It’s important,” Muzzi said of an academy residency program. “I think that it’s something that eventually we’d like to have here to facilitate it even more and to make it an even better educational curriculum for our kids. And I think we will get there, eventually.
“We’re moving in the right direction. I think that ownership is putting all the resources, making everything available to us, in a plain way.”
As a part of the agreement between Audi and MLS, the automobile manufacturing company will donate $500 to MLS academies for every regular season goal scored. They will donate $5,000 for every goal scored during the MLS All-Star Game, $2,000 for every MLS Cup playoff goal, and $10,000 for every goal in the MLS Cup final. These donations will be used to help fund the new facility.
The Audi Goals Drive Progress launch also offers an opportunity for fans in each MLS market to help make an impact via their own social media channel engagement. Starting on July 31, each week, fans that are legal residents of the United States and Canada who are 13 years of age or older can support each of their team’s goals by posting a celebratory message on their Twitter and/or Instagram accounts using their team-specific hashtag. (Orlando City’s is #orlgoalpromotion ). Fans are also encouraged to tag @audi for additional engagement. At the end of the season, the team with the highest average fan social posts per game can earn an additional $50,000 for their club’s academy. The promotion is limited to one post per social media platform per goal.
The Audi Performance Centers will be on-site education locations for the young players between training sessions and should assist academies throughout the league. The first of those will be built for Orlando City, which should provide a boost to the OCSC academy as it transitions into a new phase in its development.