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May, 2019

Lauderhill Lions youth soccer players joining Inter Miami CF Academy

Joshua Grant had a great reason to be excited after finding out he had been selected to the Inter Miami CF Academy along with three of his Lauderhill Lions teammates. The Major League Soccer club recruited 150 players from a pool of over 6,000 soccer hopefuls to build eight academy teams in the U-12 to U-19 age divisions.

“When I found out I was selected I was jumping up and down but I had to remain humble at the same time,” Grant said. “I’m excited because I think this can bring me to bigger places. I was a little scared because I didn’t want to leave my friends but I had to make the right choice. My teammates and coaches were happy for me but they didn’t want to lose me. I just want to play to the best of my ability in practice and in games.”

Grant and three of his Lauderhill Lions teammates Guy Medeus, Ayden McFarlane and Khalil Hines received personalized invitations from Inter Miami owner and soccer icon David Beckham. The goal is to identify, recruit, train and develop top players in the South Florida area. Team rosters will be announced this summer and the U.S. Development Academy’s 2019-20 season will start in September against other travel clubs in the Southeast region.

Grant is a 12-year-old Lauderhill resident and a student at Ben Gamla Preparatory Charter School. He has been with the Lions soccer program for six years and learned his lessons well.

“The Lions make you play harder than you ever think you’re capable of playing and teach you to play with heart no matter what and never give up,” he said. “The academy starts up in August and I can’t wait to get going. This will require a lot of dedication but I practice every day and never get tired of playing soccer. I’m ready.”

South Florida has garnered a reputation for being a hot bed of soccer talent and a productive feeder system for MLS clubs. Inter Miami recognizes that fact and wants to make an investment in the homegrown talent base. The Lions are one of the smaller clubs compared to Weston and Kendall but the talent didn’t get overlooked by Inter Miami.

Paul McDonough is sporting director of Inter Miami CF and oversees the sports operations and the building of the expansion club rosters. The academy is geared toward developing South Florida players of all ages.

“It was really important for us when we got into this process to really focus on the youth players in South Florida,” McDonough said. “We made our official invitations a couple of weeks ago to 150 kids to be part of the Inter Miami Academy. We’ve been going out and scouting since last August and have visited many locations. We knew there would be some very good players out there that weren’t playing on clubs due to the restriction on finances and we looked at different groups in South Florida.”

In its search for top tier talent, Inter Miami went to the inner cities and other locations that might have been overlooked. The process has gone along well and the goal is to build a first-class club from the first team all the way down to the academy.

“There is no cost to be part of the academy as it is fully funded by the ownership group,” McDonough said. "Once a player is selected, they are fully funded. Some kids can’t afford to play with a big club so we’ll take a look at them. The clubs have been super receptive to us. We will continue to scout and continue to work.”

Lauderhill city officials and members of the Lauderhill Lions soccer program greeted Inter Miami Academy staff coach Jason Kreis and academy coach Victor Pastora at the Lauderhill Sports Complex for a training visit. Kreis was a standout MLS player and MLS champion coach. He will be the head coach of the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team.

“This has been a long process that started with scouting in the community,” Kreis said. “We had between 10 to 20 Lauderhill Lions players who attended our tryout sessions and four players have been selected for our team. We’re here to cultivate people and develop professional players for our first team. I’ve been absolutely stunned by the quality of play from the young players down here in Florida. This is an honor and an exciting time for soccer. Our main focus won’t be about winning but developing players.”

The completion of the training facility at Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium is expected to be ready in February.

Adopted from the Sun Sentinel, Reported Emmett Hall, a South Florida Community News correspondent


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