In the US football, more commonly known as soccer, has not traditionally been one of its more popular sports. Basketball, baseball, American football and ice hockey have by far the most fans, although football is more practical for school age children and particularly girls.
However, since the US hosted the World Cup in 1994 soccer has broken through into society and has seen a spectacular growth in popularity in the last couple of decades.
The premier division of men’s professional football is Major League Soccer, which has 20 teams distributed in the eastern and western conferences. In the last few years more and more world class players have been opting to end their successful sporting careers in a North American team. Players such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Kaká, Alessandro Del Piero, Raúl González, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and David Villa are some of the great footballing legends who have crossed the Atlantic after being stars of European football.
The women’s professional football scene is world class and the US team is currently one of the most successful. In fact the US national woman’s team has won the World Cup on three occasions (1991, 1999 and 2015). They also won the Olympic Gold on four of the five occasions that the tournament has been played.
Every year there are more and more young people who love football coming to annual academies where they can combine specialist coaching with academic study in outstanding facilities.
In the US, this perfect combination of football and academic study is offered, among other centres, by the prestigious IMG Academy. This Academy is located in Bradenton (Florida) and is geared towards young people from 10 to 19 years who have intermediate or advanced football ability.
IMG Academy offers an outstanding sporting-educational programme organised by semesters (Autumn (Fall) or Spring) in line with the American educational calendar. International students can also take English courses to help them improve their communication with their classmates, coaches, teachers etc.
Student-athletes are accommodated in the modern facilities of Bradenton, a complex similar to a university campus which extends over almost 500 hectares.
Other advantages of the annual academies
As well as improving young people’s football skills and knowledge of English, annual academies such as IMG enable them to become more responsible and independent. Being away from home for several months the students experience positive development in their personalities, returning more outgoing and with improved confidence.
Another aspect to highlight is the possibility to improve their English thanks to total immersion in the language. Nowadays a high percentage of work opportunities require a good command of the English language and numerous studies have demonstrated that being able to speak English improves the chances of finding a good job quickly. IMG Academy’s international students go home with a better knowledge of English which gives them an added value in the employment market.