Audi's 'The Academy' mini-docuseries chronicles struggles to go pro in the MLS
Audi and Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a five-part docuseries that shines a spotlight on developing the next generation of soccer stars. "The Academy" will debut on Wednesday, August 19.
The series follows Sporting Kansas City's youth academy, one of the 94 North American academy clubs that have strategically aligned themselves with MLS's player development platform. During the 2019 season, MLS invested $70 million in the program.
"The Academy" provides an all-access look at the commitments and sacrifices that young athletes make to become professional soccer players, showing the work that the players and MLS are putting in to develop next-generation talent. The series features a detailed look at tactical meetings, closed training sessions, and how Sporting Kansas City's Academy managed the transition to remote and virtual trainings, as well as season delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The docuseries debuts August 19.Photo courtesy of Sporting Kansas City
"This is the first look that any fans will have at one of the most respected soccer academies in the U.S. and a chance to catch a glimpse of who could be tomorrow's greatest stars," said Raphael Poplock, SVP of New Business Development, Bleacher Report. "We faced a unique challenge to create a very personal documentary from remote and social distanced settings during this period and think we have captured exceptional stories from the Sporting Kansas City's Academy player's journey."
Prominent Sporting Kansas City personalities are featured in the episodes, including Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes, Academy coach Rumbani Munthali, Homegrown midfielder Gianluca Busio, along with Academy players Gage Akalu, Nati Clarke, Osvaldo Cisneros, and Jake Davis.
"The Sporting Kansas City Academy is a core part of our club, and receiving this tremendous support from Audi helps us with so much, including housing and transportation within our Academy," said Peter Vermes, Sporting Kansas City Manager & Sporting Director. "Our focus will continue to be placed on having a clear and productive pro-pathway from the Academy to the first team, and the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative helps us immensely in achieving that goal."
Audi has supported the Academies for years. As of April 2020, the company has committed more than $1 million including a program funded by Audi that eliminates transportation barriers for Academies teams. Academy players who benefitted from the program have been signed to First team, Homegrown pro contracts. The Houston Dynamo was able to use funds to help transport student-athletes who otherwise would not be able to participate in the Academy program. The New England Revolution installed a new Audi Performance Center at their training facility and developed a shuttle program to help with player transportation. The Portland Timbers secured vehicles to transport players and eliminate recruitment challenges due to geographic limitations.
"Audi's commitment to MLS has always focused on advancing the game of soccer in North America, so we thought it was important to put a personal face on that commitment by showcasing these young players and their experiences," said Shawna Burtscher, director of Experiential Marketing, Audi of America. "We think of 'The Academy' as a much-needed source of inspiration to soccer fans everywhere.
The docuseries will debut on BleacherReport.com.