USL News Release
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. – USL is pleased to announce that VisionPro Sports Institute (VSI) has chosen to establish an international youth soccer academy in Tampa. As part of the new project, VSI will also operate teams in the PDL, W-League and Super-20 League starting in 2012, with a USL PRO franchise scheduled to begin play in Tampa in 2013.
VSI established its first youth soccer academy earlier this year in La Manga, Spain, and is partnering with the respected Brandon FC Flames youth club to form its newest academy. The agreement is another milestone for VSI as it continues to develop its international academy business, which provides elite development coaching for young players. VSI is supported by both current and former English Premier League players and managers, many of whom act as mentors to the VSI academy scholars. Additional academies are expected soon in Portugal and the Far East.
“This is a great day for the Tampa soccer community, most notably youth players and fans,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “Not only will an elite academy be established so top young talent can pursue their professional dreams, but Tampa will have new professional and elite men’s and women’s amateur teams to support for years to come. Backed by some of the top names in world soccer, VisionPro Sports Institute will make a difference for Tampa soccer.”
Headquartered in England, VSI uses the support and backing of soccer’s leading professional players to establish and operate elite academies for young talent. VSI’s elite, fully funded scholarship programs are run by a team of highly qualified coaches and teachers who pass on the skills players need to make the grade.
“The combination of our partnership with the Brandon FC Flames and our USL franchise teams lays the perfect platform for vertical progression, giving talented youngsters the opportunity to progress from junior soccer all the way through to the professional game,” VSI CEO Simon Crane said. “VSI is dedicated to elite performance and we are confident that our USL franchises will be strong, successful and, importantly, profitable.”
“I am delighted that our VSI soccer business now extends across the Atlantic and embraces North America through our Tampa franchises,” VSI Chairman Neil Caisley said. “It has been a major part of our plans for growing the business and we look forward to exciting times ahead and becoming part of the USL family.”
Founded in 1975, the Brandon FC Flames boast more than 3,000 players in a wide variety of soccer programs including Classic Soccer (recreational), TOPSoccer (special needs), Elite Soccer (competitive) and Adult Soccer. Brandon FC is dedicated to providing a positive and rewarding soccer experience for all players of all ages and abilities.
“Brandon FC is very excited to be partnering with two organizations with incredible reputations in VSI and USL,” Brandon FC’s Randy Belli said. “Throughout the process, we have discovered that the benefits to all parties involved will be outstanding. The vertical integration of youth soccer through the professional level is something that we have been striving to achieve. The real winners from this partnership are the players and the fans.”
USL PRO is the strongest, most sophisticated and most experienced North American men’s professional soccer league below MLS, both on and off the field. Focused on franchise stability and longevity, USL PRO featured 12 teams in 2011 and an unprecedented six teams with more than a decade of operational experience.
The top developmental men’s league in North America, the PDL featured 64 teams within four conferences across the United States and Canada in 2011. The first and longest-standing women’s league in North America, the W-League is USL’s highest level of women’s soccer in the United States and Canada and featured 27 teams in three regional conferences in 2011.
The Super-20 League is the only U20 men’s and women’s North American amateur league, and it provides the platform for top 17- to 20-year-olds in the United States and Canada to compete at the elite level. Many Super-20 teams serve as a reserve team system for W-League and PDL teams.