The Premier Sports Campus during the Nike Friendlies | Photo courtesy Premier Sports Campus
When players at the inaugural USL Academy Eastern Conference Regional Event take the field, they’ll be doing so at one of the country’s top soccer complexes. The Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton, Florida contains 23 FIFA regulation fields, eight of which are lighted.
An estimated 85,000 athletes and fans visit the venue throughout the year, which has hosted U.S. Soccer National and Paralympic team training camps as well as national team training camps for China, Brazil, and the Netherlands.
“We’re known for combining our incredible fields, high-level clients who train and host tournaments, and customer service,” said Bradenton Area Sports Commission Senior Manager Sean Walter. “The playing surface of our fields is excellent, and event organizers are able to control the set-up and functionality of their event without any major restrictions or controls. We’re excited to assist USL Academy organizers in providing the best athlete and fan experience possible.”
The complex’s state-of-the-art irrigation system runs underground with 160 feet of pipe, which pulls water from an aquifier. This allows staff to lower the water table during heavy rains to maximize drainage of the fields.
Manatee County purchased the property in December 2016, and it is now operated by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Bradenton Area Sports Commission. The facility does a tremendous job driving out-of-town business to the area, generating roughly 35,000 room nights annually for local hotels and creating a multi-million dollar positive economic impact.
“The Premier Sports Campus is the perfect venue to host the first-ever Eastern Conference event for the USL Academy platform,” said USL Sr. Director of Youth Development Liam O’Connell. “Some of the country’s top young soccer players will have the chance to show off their abilities on high-quality playing surfaces, and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to Bradenton.”
The Premier Sports Campus has hosted other prominent youth soccer events, including the yearly U.S. Soccer Winter Academy Showcase and the Nike Friendlies for Boys and Girls. Some of the very best soccer players in world played at the complex during their own youth careers, including Brazil’s Phillippe Coutinho, Neymar, and Marcelo, the Netherlands’ Memphis Depay, and England’s Jadon Sancho.
The list of prominent U.S. national team players to pass through the Premier Sports Campus is even longer. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Tim Weah (Lille), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Ulysses Llanez (VfL Wolfsburg) and Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas) all played at the venue in recent years for the Nike Friendlies.
The USL Academy Eastern Conference Event is set to take place there from February 14-17, with 12 U17 Boys teams in attendance. All 12 are part of organizations with senior teams competing in the USL Championship, USL League One, and USL League Two.
For more information on USL Academy, visit usl-academy.com or search #USLAcademy on social media.