Just four days after the Orlando City Pro Academy U-15/16s finish the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase – where they’ll play some of the best Academy teams in the country – they’ll head to Curitiba, Brazil, to face even stiffer competition.
The U-15/16s were invited to take on Clube Atlético Paranaense’s U-17s and the U-17 national teams of India and Uruguay in preparation for next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
Obviously, City and Atlético won’t be participating in the World Cup, but it’s an incredible opportunity for City’s youngsters to travel to Brazil to face some of the best of their age in the world.
“It’ll be a really tough challenge, especially coming off the Showcase with three games in four days and us taking a bit younger team,” Pro Academy Director David Longwell said. “Everyone’s really looking forward to it, though. It’ll be great for the boys to play against such great teams.”
The invitation comes after Lions head coach Jason Kreis’ visit to Paranaense earlier this month in one of the first formal exchanges between the recently partnered clubs. Kreis raved about the facilities in Curitiba – Atlético boasts a training center with two hotels, two restaurants, two thermals pools and a weight room and the first stadium in South America with a retractable roof – and their development system is just as great.
“Paranaense has an excellent set-up with their facilities and a great academy, so it’ll be a great experience for our boys,” Longwell said.
But Orlando City’s Pro Academy is developing quite a few budding stars of its own –the U-17/18s are currently No. 1 in the country, and the U-15/16s are undefeated through 12 games.
More importantly than the wins, though, is the development of the players and the Academy and how City and Atlético can help each other with both.
“It’s going to be great for our team and our kids,” Longwell said, “and I know it will be for them, too. It’s a case of how we can share best practices that both clubs can use.”