“The QBFC Academy is a vital part of our success,” said club co-founder David Villa. “I believe our organization will do a world-class job of finding, coaching, and elevating an incredible new generation of players for Queens, the United States, and beyond.”
The Academy League is a huge step for the USL as a whole. The league is centered around communities, hoping to provide access to the world’s game on a local level across the nation.
The USL Academy League is composed of seven regions, with QBFC joining 12 other clubs in the Northeast.
The other academies in the division include those from ten USL League Two teams, two from the USL Championship, and a NY Red Bulls affiliate. The inaugural Academy League season will kick off in Spring of 2021.
“Having QBFC Academy participate in the inaugural season of the USL Academy League is a critical step for us in order to start playing competitively right away while building the foundation of our club’s Senior Team for 2022,” said technical director Luis Gutierrez.
Gutierrez has plenty of experience in New York soccer, working with the NY Cosmos and capturing a NPSL title in 2015 with the B team.
“The Cosmos were a great experience for me to understand soccer in the US and New York,” he said. “At the beginning we were competing as a professional team, but the last two years it was more local and we played in a more amateur environment. It gave me a good understanding of soccer here and building a new club.”
Up next for QBFC is creating the first roster. Tryouts have been set for November 4-5, with Queensboro FC expecting a massive turnout as they look to build a team with local talent.
For prospective players from Queens, registration fees are refunded, and the academy will be fully funded for its members, challenging the standard “pay-to-play” format in the US.
“Most academies, not only in New York City but in the country, have the ‘pay to play’ format, but that is a model that has already proved that it’s not working to find talent and to develop players in the country,” said Gutierrez.
“This is a way to show that we’re committed to the community and local talent in Queens and with the players that haven’t had the opportunities to reach academies because they don’t have resources,” he added. “We feel we have to open that door to everyone in Queens.”
With an extra year to prepare, the Queensboro FC front office feels like they have ample time to create something special in the borough.
“I go every weekend to Flushing Meadows Park and I can see young talented kids playing there,” said Gutierrez. “You can see that Queens has a lot of potential in soccer that we have to take advantage of. Providing an opportunity for them is a win-win for the players and our club,”
Head coach Josep Gombau has experience building academies, helping build FC Barça Escola and spending time with youth teams.
“I like this kind of job, I like to work with young players and to know every single player in the academy,” said Gombau. “I think it’s part of our job as coaches and it will help me learn about New York, Queens, and USL soccer.”
Both Gombau and Gutierrez have seen promise in youth soccer in the US, as well as what some of the brightest young USMNT stars are doing abroad in Europe.
“A lot of people are watching how young players from the US are doing well in Europe and playing in the top leagues and against the best competition in the world,” said Gombau. “Ten years ago, young players saw this possibility as very far, but now they’re watching the games and they want to achieve the same themselves.”
There is plenty of work to do, especially in a constantly changing situation. The pandemic has made soccer difficult on a youth and amateur level, but many clubs and leagues are returning to play.
“We’re in a situation where it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen, but we feel we’re doing things in the right way,” said Gutierrez.
“Everybody is very excited because we know what we’re creating is something very nice and something different,” said Gombau. “I hope the people in Queens will love what we are doing.”