The AP reports that South American and European soccer powerhouses are opening full-time soccer academies across the country, a trend that is expected to continue thanks to the growing popularity of soccer in the USA. Later this month, Barcelona will open its first academy in Fort Lauderdale later, while the likes of Boca Juniors and Everton already operate academies in New York and Connecticut, respectively.
According to soccer economist Simon Kuper, these teams are not just looking to scout young talent. Rather, they are mainly looking to boost their brand by opening these soccer schools. Indeed, building an international fan base is of optimal importance for today’s top teams, which derive a huge chunk of their revenue from overseas broadcasting and merchandising.
"If you can engage kids when they are young, then they will stay with you for the rest of their lives," Simon Chadwick, a sports economist at England's University of Coventry, tells the AP.