MILFORD, Ohio — There’s a wing in FC Cincinnati's Mercy Health Training Facility that doesn't quite feel the same as the rest of the shiny new grounds. That's because it's home to FCC's academy teams, and its toned down amenities are intentional, according to club director of soccer operations Dan McNally.
It will serve as a reminder to the academy players of not only where they are, but where they want to be with doors separating the MLS club from the academy section.
“We wanted to make those doors important, because through those doors is the next level,” he said. “Boys between ages 14 and 17, you want to make them feel welcome and whole so you can get the most out of their abilities. This place is a teaching room; an open environment for young players."
The Mercy Health Training Facility — a $35 million, 30,000 square foot gem nestled north of Cincinnati in the Milford suburbs — has been branded as a fresh start for FCC. On the club’s fast track to the MLS, plans for an academy had to be temporarily put on the back burner. Now with the sleek facility in place, MLS club and academy are all under one roof.
While the academy's locker room may not be as flashy as that of the pros down the hall, everyone will be training on the same ground, ensuring a continuity between youth and senior teams. These details did not go unnoticed by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who has talked often about building a foundation for the sport from the bottom up.
"There's a commitment to ensuring the brand is present in the entire facility. It's not just a training ground,” Garber said in his visit to the new facility. "All of our teams have a certain standard that they're required to meet as it relates to their academies. The organization of FCC's technical staff is very seasoned and focused."
That's good news to Garber, who voiced his belief Cincinnati's academy will quickly become productive.
"We want to lift this sport up through an incredible amount of investment from our MLS owners at the grassroots level,” he said. “The academy programs are delivering results around the league, and you're starting to see players get developed, sign pro contracts, play for the first team, or go on to play in leagues all over the world. I think you'll see all of that in Cincinnati."
The dedication to a youth movement is felt even at the highest levels of FCC's front office.
“What makes this facility even more special is the fact it will be used by our academy and youth teams,” FC Cincinnati majority owner and CEO Carl Linder III said. “Can you imagine being on a youth team and being next to MLS players? Their dreams were sparked on neighborhood fields in our region. Then they saw FCC play at Nippert Stadium the last few years. Now their dreams will be honed and refined here. One day, those dreams of donning the Orange and Blue and running out at our West End stadium are going to come true here."