ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida Cup 2019 is a four-team soccer tournament that features teams from South America and Europe, and it's officially underway in the City Beautiful.
As many Central Floridians have seen with the Orlando City Soccer Club and its growing fan base, soccer has gotten more attention.
Over the past of couple of years, Central Florida has seen a growth not only in diversity, but also in soccer: A worldwide sport that seems to be making Orlando a popular destination for soccer academies to thrive.
"America is really starting to bloom with soccer, so I think all those diverse cultures together now, people are really grasping the concept of the game. Soccer just brings everybody together. It goes with any culture, any background," soccer coach Kyle Wilson said.
Five months ago, High Soccer Arena opened a 30,000-square-foot facility in Orlando.
"They bring kids during the night while they are playing, so here is a very good environment in a place for the entire family," owner Thiago Cucci said.
It has four fields, a concrete futsal court, a snooker ball set, a mini field for babies and a cafeteria.
"I think everybody is really getting excited for the future of not only soccer here, but how it's transpiring across the world," Wilson said.
Sales manager and head coach at R9 Ronaldo Academy Sebastian Pérez agreed.
"We breathe this sport very much. You see a lot of fields everywhere, a lot of people doing practices," Pérez said.
R9 Ronaldo Academy is a four-field outdoor facility founded in 2015 by one of the most respected soccer players in the world: Luiz Nazario de Lima -- better known as Ronaldo, from Brazil.
His vision? For younger generations to learn his unique playing style.
"It's recently grown within the past maybe four, five years. Back when we had our inauguration we had maybe a couple 30, 40, 50 kids sign up for our competitive program, but since then, right now, I think our number is close to 300 students," program coordinator Raquel Miranda said.
Pérez said Ronaldo changed the game.
"He was very famous in his skill level. He could turn around and take on the defender one, two, three goalies -- and he just completely revolutionized the game," Pérez said.
Pérez said the academy welcomes players from 3 years old to 19-year-old competitive teams, and focuses on developing their cognitive skills and mechanical skills to be able to develop different styles.
The R9 Ronaldo Academy also partnered with Orange County Public Schools, and so far, about six schools are getting results with free classes.
"Our coaches go out there and during their PE sessions they'll have them do drills, training sessions during that class," Miranda said.
R9 Ronaldo Academy is also looking into developing an after school program.
Cucci hopes all kids can be a part of the special game.
"High Soccer Foundation was created for kids who can't afford soccer classes. This was my dream to help those kids even though they don't have that privilege, we want to spread our soccer passion for all kids here," Cucci said.
There are several other soccer academies in Central Florida:
Big Sun Youth Soccer League in Marion County.
Professional Soccer Academy at New Smyrna Beach Sports Complex
Deltona Youth Soccer United
Brevard Soccer Alliance
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