In American youth soccer, it is Mecca. The epicenter of young talent in this country. A place every 16- and 17-year-old player dreams of attending. Its résumé is impressive; many remarkable professional players have come through its halls.
It’s the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and next season, two members of Chivas USA’s youth system will join up with some of the most talented young players in America.
This week, Chivas USA announced that 17-year-old goalkeeper Jake McGuire and 16-year-old striker Kevin de la Torre had both been invited to spend the next two years in Florida at the IMG Academy.
“We’re really happy for the boys,” Chivas USA U-18 head coach Sacha van der Most told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a great opportunity for them. They’re going to the residency program to be treated like professionals, and they’ll come back stronger in two years. They’ll get international experience, and that’s great for the players.”
The pair has been turning heads for months now. McGuire is an imposing presence between the pipes while de la Torre has been troubling opposing defenses since he joined the Goats youth system.
“Kevin is an extremely talented player,” said van der Most. “Jake is an extremely hardworking player and has improved tremendously in the last year since he joined our program.”
The Goats’ youth academy boasts an impressive record. The system has produced several members of the US U-20 National Team in recent years, including Gerson Mayén, Jorge Flores, Cesar Zamora and new first-team signing Bryan de la Fuente. Zamora and Bryan de la Fuente both started with the Chivas USA U-16 Team and are currently in Chivas USA’s First Team.
“What our program does well is we play a style of soccer that is pretty unique for our area,” said van der Most.
Bradenton was founded in 2002 and has quickly become an important breeding ground for United States soccer. The American roster for the 2010 FIFA World Cup featured four alumni of the program, and a handful of other graduates – including Chad Marshall, Freddy Adu and Bobby Convey, have been capped internationally.