Major League Soccer and Audi announced before tonight’s MLS All-Star Game at Exploria Stadium, a league-wide, multi-year initiative aimed at developing youth soccer players and further growing the game in America.
The program, called Audi Goals Drives Progress, will see Audi committing upwards of $1 million through every regular season and playoff goal scored in 2019.
Audi will kick things off by contributing $5,000 for every goal in tonight’s All-Star Game, then $500 for every goal scored in through the end of the regular season, and $2,000 per goal in the playoffs.
MLS will also begin opening Audi Performance Centers in select academies throughout the league, with the first being Orlando City‘s new training facility opening in Kissimmee later this year.
“It directly impacts everything,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said. “These kids drive 45 minutes to get here, they’re going to public schools — which we have great public schools in all counties here — and then we’re going to be able to supplement that, it’s an additional resource. We get resources for them that when they’re training they can stay, they do their homework, they can do video, they can do anything there. So it makes everything so much better.”
Muzzi says the new Audi Performance Center gives youth players new options at the training facility that they’ve never had before, that they no longer have to go home after training or do homework in locker rooms. Now they can stay there, be with their coaches, and be able to receive additional support to further their development.
“The thing these guys are doing is not only teaching them to play, but we need to create better citizens,” Muzzi said. “So that’s why you see the Homegrown Game now and it’s so much better because we’re doing a better job, everybody is — MLS, the teams — at creating better people. More educated, more in touch with everything that happens around them. It’s all about education.”
Muzzi was asked about the importance of creating a true development academy for Orlando City and said it’s something he hopes can happen down the road, but it won’t be in the immediate future.
“You have to walk before you run,” he said, referring to what the club has started to create and what it wants to do with the resources that ownership has given them to build.
“We’re moving in the right direction, ownership is making all of the right resources available to us in a planned way,” he said. “It’s not like ‘here, have all of these things and go.'”