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 Academy 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.

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The Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition pays homage to vintage aircraft.

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

In the aftermath of World War I, company founder Ettore Bugatti showcased the first three vehicles made by the company that bore his name. They were race cars and Bugatti found itself at the pinnacle of the sport very quickly.

By 1930, the company would begin its relationship with the aerospace industry, first with the Bugatti 100P, which never actually flew due to World War II, but served as the inspiration for a number of patents that are filed by the company. The plane went into storage as the Second World War kicked off and Mr. Bugatti would never again work on it during his lifetime.

Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition

Photo courtesy of Bugatti

Bugatti is honoring its racing and aviation past with a new series of Chiron Sport models dubbed "Les Légendes du Ciel". The drivers who piloted the Bugattis to success in the early 1900s were often time multitalented with resumes declaring them flying aces, daredevils, and technically skilled pilots.

"Bugatti has had close associations with aviation since the company was established more than 110 years ago. Many successful Bugatti racing drivers, such as Albert Divo, Robert Benoist and Bartolomeo 'Meo' Costantini, flew for the French Air Force, the French aviator legend Roland Garros privately drove a Bugatti Type 18 to be as fast on the road as in the air," says Stephan Winkelmann, President of Bugatti. "It is therefore almost an obligation for us today to pay tribute to the legends of that time and dedicate a special edition to them."

Each of the new models features a special, matte gray "Gris Serpent" paint job, which is inspired by the exterior color of aircrafts from the 1920s. The color extends front to rear with high-contrast, which gloss stripe running up the center. The front wings are adorned with the "Les Légendes du Ciel" logo. The "Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge" tricolor decorates the front area of the side sills made of exposed black carbon fiber.

At the front is Bugatti's traditional horseshoe radiator grille, finished in gloss black. The grille mesh is made of laser-cut and deep-drawn aluminum, and constructed in a dynamic pattern that that is repeated on the car's leather seats. Entry lights project the edition logo on the ground at entry while "Les Légendes du Ciel" logo on the middle console inlays.

Bugatti has covered the engine with black exposed carbon fiber with contrasting white lettering. The material continues at the back where black exposed carbon fibre and a black-coated exhaust trim cover made of 3D printed, high-temperature-resistant Inconel dominate.

The car's interior is almost entirely upholstered in leather. The leather's light brown color was chosen to be reminiscent of the natural leather in early aircrafts. On the door panels there is a hand-sketched racing scene between the Nieuport 17 aircraft and a Bugatti Type 13.

The new Bugatti Chiron Sport "Les Légendes du Ciel" edition is limited to 20 vehicles. Every model is independently numbered and costs $3.5 million.

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A general view of the Mercedes Laver Cup cars in front of TD Garden in promotion of Laver Cup Boston 2020 on March 2, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for The Laver Cup

The 2050 Decorbonization Roadmap laid out by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in December makes it clear, the sale of new gasoline-powered cars will end by 2035. It's all part of the Commonwealth government's push to Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Though it's not law, the guidelines set forth in the plan make it clear that the internal combustion vehicle is marked for dead despite the current very low rate of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicle adoption. Despite pushes from government, advocacy groups, and the automakers themselves, the public just isn't buying electric vehicles at a high volume. In the last 10 years, there have been just 1.6 million plug-in electric vehicles sold in the U.S.(BEVs and PHEVs) out of over 156 million light-duty vehicles sold in the U.S. during the same time period according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Ford sold more than 1.6 million F-150s in 2018-2019 alone.

2020 Hyundai Nexo The Hyundai Nexo runs on a hydrogen fuel cell rather than a traditional electric battery setup. Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Effectively, Massachusetts is set to eliminate choice for its residents, a move that echos recent action by the State of California.

The Roadmap looks to slowly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions using the measurement of million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e). The baseline the study uses for measurement is 1990, where there was 94.5 MMTCO2e in the Commonwealth. 2005 was the last year where emissions were above that level. They've been sinking since.

By 2017, emissions were 22.7 percent below 1990 numbers nearing the 70.8 MMTCO2e goal set by the commonwealth for 2020. Sixty-nine percent of that is from households and light-duty vehicles. Light-duty vehicles make 27 percent of the state's emissions.

Efforts to decarbonize come in four areas: end use energy (transitioning away from fossil fuels), energy flexibility and efficiency (aggressively pursuing energy efficiency and flexibility to enable cost-effective decarbonization), decarbonizing energy supply (production of zero and low-carbon energy supplies), and carbon sequestration (facilitating carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere).

The Roadmap contends that "although several clean options already exist for both light-duty transportation and for home and small business building services, across our in-depth analysis, electrification tends to be the most cost-effective - both individually and system-wide - and easiest to deploy." Basically, if the government requires buyers to purchase more electric cars, their cost will go down and that area of the graph is "fixed".

A 2021 Toyota Mirai fills up with fuel at a station in Southern California.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

The report doesn't completely neglect hydrogen use in vehicles. It says that "zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen help power the rest of the transportation system". By "the rest" they mean vehicles that aren't cars, trucks, or buses. That means high-load transportation vehicles like tractor trailers will be able to use hydrogen but the public would be discouraged from purchasing and driving a Toyota Mirai or Hyundai Nexo, both of which run on hydrogen fuel cell (FCEV) technology, are available for sale today, and produce only water vapor out of the tailpipe.

Massachusetts and other states in the northeast face a unique barrier to widespread hydrogen fuels adoption. According to Toyota, in the 1980s, many municipalities in the area outlawed the transportation of combustable fuels over bridges and through tunnels. Using hydrogen as a fuel in vehicles is not as risky as traditional transportation methods because of the technology that has evolved to protect the fuel, vehicle, and passengers. However, these laws have not changed to accommodate the advances. This means that driving a FCEV over a bridge or through a tunnel in some areas is illegal despite the fact that a neighboring jurisdiction may have modernized their regulations.

Most automakers are willing to publicly admit that their company views FCEVs as the endgame while battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model 3 as merely roadways to the full FCEV future.

The Roadmap spells out other ways in which the Commonwealth is committed to reducing the amount of fossil fuels emitted by vehicles including maintenance and support of existing public transportation systems, reducing single occupancy vehicles "where possible", making complementary land use decisions, and supporting active transportation architecture like bike lanes and sidewalks.

The report lays out the biggest obstacle facing wider spread adoption of electric vehicles by residents, the development of dependable and accessible charging infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth and in residents' homes. Europe, which is far ahead of the U.S in terms of regulating certain types of vehicles into popularity and the government subsidization of energy initiatives, still struggles with charging infrastructure woes.

Uncovered in the plan are the business consequences of the actions set forth. Assuming not as many people will need gasoline to run their vehicles, it is likely that gas stations will go out of business. The transportation of fossil fuels has its own sector of the industry that will be made mostly redundant. Vehicle service centers, often independent retailers, will be forced to spend big on equipment so that they can service electric vehicles as they gain popularity due to government regulation. Recently, many Cadillac dealerships balked at the quarter-million dollar cost of installing EV repair and service technology at their dealerships instead electing to give up their dealership rights entirely.

The report does say that "close attention and vigilant care is given to mitigate any undue or avoidable impact or burden on Massachusetts' residents across the Commonwealth's entire economic, social, and geographic diversity."

However, t does not cover what could happen if new vehicle buyers simply cross the border into Maine, Rhode Island, or Connecticut and purchase their new internal combustion vehicle there.

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