Soccer

Audi's 'The Academy' mini-docuseries chronicles struggles to go pro in the MLS

"The Academy" follows the journey of Sporting Kansas City players.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG/MLS/Bleacher Report

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.

Sporting Kansas City The AcademyThe 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.

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Just 55 of the SUV will be built.

Mercedes

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is an aspirational vehicle, and is one that shouts "I've made it" to the world. Its six-figure price tag legitimate military background, and hardcore off-road capabilities make it appealing on many levels, and there's even a go-fast version from AMG. The G63 cranks up the already bonkers G-Class to 11, with a big V8 and aggressive styling. To commemorate AMG's 55th year tuning Mercedes' vehicles, the automaker is releasing a limited "Edition 55" G 63.

Mercedes-AMG G 63 "Edition 55"The Edition 55 gets unique styling touches inside and out. Mercedes

Though the Edition 55 adds plenty of unique flair to the AMG-massaged G-Wagen, the SUV's beating heart remains untouched. It's a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 making 577 horsepower, and is good for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds. That's in an SUV with a curb weight just shy of 6,000 pounds. Four-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission are also standard.

Mercedes says the Edition 55 comes finished in Obsidian Black metallic and rides on 22-inch forged wheels, even though the images it sent to accompany the announcement clearly show a not-black SUV. It also comes with the AMG Night Package, which brings blacked-out trim and unique accents, and the fuel filler cap is embossed with the AMG logo. Inside, the cabin features a black and red color scheme with stainless steel accents throughout. Black velour floor mats stitched with "Edition 55" in red are standard, along with an AMG Performance steering wheel wrapped in microfiber. The seats are covered in black and red Nappa leather upholstery, and Edition 55 badges are seen throughout the space.

Mercedes-AMG G 63 "Edition 55"The 577-hp super SUV can sprint to 60 mph quicker than many sports cars. Mercedes

When Mercedes says "limited edition" here, it means business. Just 55 of the SUVs will be available in the United States, and will be released later this year. There's no word on ordering or pricing details yet, but it's a safe bet that the ultra-exclusive G-Wagen will sell out quickly.

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The iX M60 will hit dealers' lots in June 2022.

BMW

BMW's electric vehicle catalog is growing rapidly as the automaker rolls out new electrified cars and SUVs. The latest is the iX M60, a red-hot five-seat SUV with sleek styling and a spectacular list of standard features. BMW announced the new SUV this week, along with pricing and release date details.

The iX M60 is BMW's first performance-oriented electric SUV, though BMW calls it a sports activity vehicle, or SAV. Its powertrain has been massaged to produce up to 610 horsepower and 811 pound-feet of torque. Maximum power delivery is limited to times when the vehicle's launch control is activated, but even the "normal" numbers are impressive: In regular driving situations, the iX puts down 532 horsepower and 749 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 3.6 seconds and the iX M60 can go on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph.

2023 BMW iX M60Though extremely sporty, BMW doesn't shy away from using loads of luxurious finishes and materials. BMW

The iX brings more than performance, as its charging capabilities are quite strong. Using AC power, the vehicle can charge from 0-100 percent in 10.25 hours on its fastest setting. Using its fastest DC power setting, the iX can charge from 10 to 80% in just 35 minutes.

Two electric motors power the SUV, which provide standard all-wheel drive. Dual-axle air suspension is standard, along with electronically-controlled shock absorbers. BMW says that the air suspension is controlled individually at each wheel, so the vehicle can adjust ride height in several ways to maintain stability and remain level in corners.

2023 BMW iX M60The vehicle can run from 0-60 mph in under four seconds and features standard AWD.BMW

When it goes on sale in June, 2022, the 2023 BMW iX M60 will have a starting price of $106,095, which includes a $995 destination charge. That's a flagship price tag, but the SUV's got the performance and a flagship-level list of standard features. That six-figure dollar amount buys 21-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging, AC fast charging, a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, a Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System, four-zone automatic climate controls, and more.

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