Arizona’s Grande Sports World finalizing plans to host MLS team training camps

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(photo courtesy of Brian Wendel)

By JOSE M. ROMERO

At least six MLS clubs are either locked in or have verbally committed to hold preseason training at Grande Sports World, a 45-acre, multi-field facility in Casa Grande, Ariz.

GSW will welcome Real Salt Lake to the facility from Jan. 23-Feb. 1. RSL will be the first MLS team to arrive in Arizona for preseason training, and will be joined by the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps from Jan. 28-Feb. 9.  

GSW director of soccer operations Greg Vanney, a former MLS player and native of nearby Tempe, also has commitments from the Seattle Sounders (late January to early February), Montreal Impact of USSF-2 (which will go MLS in 2012), Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew. Montreal, Portland and Columbus are expected to be at the site during February, starting with the Crew Feb. 10.

Columbus played a preseason match at GSW last year and apparently players and staff liked what they saw, so the Crew booked for a longer stay this year, Vanney said. He has been busy this week trying to schedule the various teams as the clubs get their offseason training plans in order. 

Seattle and Real Salt Lake trained at GSW, about a 45-minute drive south from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, last winter in the preseason. The Whitecaps also trained in Casa Grande heading into their last season in the second division. 

Practice sessions are expected to be open to the public for viewing.

"We're trying to build the sport in the community," Vanney said. "We just ask people to be respectful of teams because they're there to train."

Other MLS clubs, such as Sporting Kansas City, will train in Arizona later this winter. Sporting KC is set to hold practices in Surprise, which is about 30 miles northwest of central Phoenix. Surprise is also the spring training home of baseball's Kansas City Royals, and both teams will likely be training in town at the same time.

Some fans, particularly from the Pacific Northwest clubs, voiced displeasure about their teams coming to Arizona given the political climate and controversy over the state's SB 1070 targeted at undocumented immigrants. But those teams are moving forward with their plans for training.

"It seems like some of those concerns have sort of died down," Vanney said. 

Parts of the law and how law enforcement personnel were to enforce it were struck down in higher courts earlier this year.

More MLS teams could be coming to Grande Sports World early next year, and national teams are also in the works. Canada's U-23 and U-18 teams are committed for mid-January and the U.S. U-18 national team is scheduled for mid-February. So is New Zealand's national team toward the end of the month.

Grande Sports World is adjacent to the Francisco Grande Hotel & Golf Resort in Casa Grande, a city of close to 45,000 located between Phoenix and Tucson. The facility features eight professional grade fields and a 58,000-square foot athlete's performance center. 

Temperatures average 67 degrees in January and about 71 in February.

"It's hard to beat the weather we have here in February," Vanney said.

This entry was posted in BREAKING NEWS, Canadian Soccer, Major League Soccer, MLS- Columbus Crew, MLS- Montreal Impact, MLS- Portland Timbers, MLS- Real Salt Lake, MLS- Seattle Sounders, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, MLS- Vancouver Whitecaps, U.S. Youth National Teams. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Arizona’s Grande Sports World finalizing plans to host MLS team training camps

  1. jmadsen says:

    Oh, hooray! First post…

    It will be nice if this becomes something similar to spring training for baseball..add a little more long-term culture to US Soccer.

    imagine planning your winter vacation around your favorite team’s Winter Camp?

  2. Hincha Tim says:

    RSL’s full time training academy is there also.

  3. Charles says:

    IF they are smart they will schedule the practices at the same time as baseball spring training. The Wizards, sorry I refuse to use the knockoff name, are the smartest team, training at the same location and the same time as the Real KC, I mean Kansas City Royals. ;-)

    I am going down for spring training, as are many Mariners fans who are also Sounder’s fans, but I don’t think pitchers and catcher even report by the time the Sounders seem to be done. Not good planning at all.

  4. patrick says:

    have you given thought to the fact that it might be more difficult to run training camp with with the baseball teams there? It puts everything at a premium, including the cost of field time and other things, mainly hotels which I can’t imagine there is a surplus of in that area. Also, MLS is a stand alone league and sport. THey don’t need to piggyback everything with a bigger event. Why not have Sounder games kick off immediately after mariners games while we’re at it?

  5. Andrew says:

    Nice facility. Looks like the grass is finally green down there…

  6. Raffi says:

    I read this article and am already trying to plan a trip down with the family. Thought it might be a fun experience for the kids to see how the pros train up close. I think creating this type of facility and atmosphere is a *great* idea.

  7. Mattmatumbo says:

    I think it’s a golf course too…

  8. Ricky B. Free says:

    Latin players better carry your green cards at all times.

  9. Carlos says:

    Wasn’t aware that Arizona has an anti-immigration law….pretty sure they have an anti illegal immigration law…but why get the facts straight…..

  10. Ron says:

    Looks like the MLS camps will be held earlier than the MLB camps. Which is good in a way, since MLB Spring Training = expensive flights/hotels.

  11. BSU SC says:

    C’mon…Don’t get this debate started. Not the time or place for it.

  12. AZ and Proud says:

    Ricky B. Free – since you obviously don’t know what SB 1070 is or proposed let me give you a bit of insight. The law was written to protect the citizens of the state/country. Anyone with a US drivers licence/State ID card, or a passport that has a valid visa is welcome. 1070 was requested and approved by the citizens of AZ since the FEDERAL Gov. Refuses to do anything about ILLEGAL Imegrants who don’t pay taxes, but get to use or schools, hospitals, etc…

  13. J says:

    Yeah so how is he wrong maybe he should say take your passport or green card because not all the guys have drivers licences especially if some of the younger guys go train.

  14. fischy says:

    My thoughts exactly — though it will become problematic if the league shifts over to the international calendar.

  15. Oranje Mike says:

    Hope to see the Fire down here.

  16. Don says:

    This is exactly the place for the debate. Does anyone really believe, for example, that Canadians who are legally or illegally present in the USA will be rousted by the AZ authorities? This is not about illegal immigration. It is about immigration of what some think of as “undesireables” and every one knows it. Please stop pretending.

  17. mb says:

    how dare Arizona enforce federal laws because the federal government won’t!!! oh shame on them.

  18. BSU SC says:

    -1

    You’re trying to be a troll. For those who want to debate immigration, go to a blog on one of the major news outlet websites. Let’s stick to football here.

  19. BSU SC says:

    -1

    Same goes for you. Not the place for this debate. Try CNN, MSNBC, or Fox. This is SOCCER by Ives, not Politics by Ives.

  20. usa soccerboy says:

    1/3 of Arizona is hispanic. Do you think Arizona law enforcement harasses every third person they see?

  21. Mattmatumbo says:

    Whoa bucko, check your spelling and grammar before you finish an angry rant.

  22. Ball says:

    Boycott Arizona!!!

  23. BodyRock says:

    Soccer should not go to a racist state

  24. BodyRock says:

    Because of racism that doesnt die, they now have the right to harrass legal Americans