FC Barcelona is doing for soccer academies what Manchester United has done for exposition matches, soccer camps, and every kind of merch you can imagine: capitalize on the American willingness to pay money for well-branded things. The club that gave us Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta is opening up FC Barcelona Escola Northern Virginia in Loudoun County “for boys and girls ages 6-18 years old who want to join the world’s most successful youth development system.”
The program, which is expected to begin later this year, is joining a crowded market of domestic names already selling soccer in the area, like Loudoun Development Academy and DC United’s Development Academy Training Programs. John Nash, the CEO of the sports-consulting agency that’s partnered with Barcelona to launch the stateside schools, says that what they’re offering is a little different: “World class training for less than world class price.” While details on cost have yet to be released, Nash says they plan on being less pricey than the bigger clubs in the area, where yearly expenses of around $4,000 can outpace the cost of child orthodontics.
Barcelona’s own youth academy, La Masia, is often credited as being the best in the world—players train and live together in a 300-year-old Catalan farmhouse, for free, from as young as 6 years old. These American escoles operating under the Barcelona banner promise to export the same methodology and philosophy to the US, for cash.
The escola’s technical director in Virginia will be Juan Carlos Garcia Suarez, who according to his LinkedIn profile underwent coaches training at the club in 2011; former Barcelona leftback Sergi Barjuan will be present for player evaluations at the Evergreen Sportsplex from April 22-29. Sergi came up through La Masia, though he is named as an FCBEscola graduate in a Monday press release that conflates the two academies.
The goals of the escola—the club’s 4th to open Stateside—are undoubtedly (at least) threefold: to provide quality soccer training to US youngsters, raise the profile of FC Barcelona, and create revenue for a dominant global sports brand in a country that is watching more soccer than ever. And these goals are being linked from the academy’s outset: Per a press release, “April 22 is the unveiling of the FCBEscola Northern Virginia, kicking off a series of events leading up to the high-profile match between FC Barcelona and Manchester United at FedEx Field.”