Train and Play in Europe at Professional Academies – A Proven 4 Step Process

Since I launched 1v1 Soccer FC in 2000 our vision has remained the same – to provide players in Canada with training experiences comparable to leading soccer nations.

Our players have attracted the interest of Sevilla (Spain), FC Porto (Portugal), Wolves (England), Crewe Alexandra (England) and Chievo Verona (Italy). Over 500+ players have gone through the process of attending our international player ID camps, travelling to train at professional academies overseas and attending formal trials.

Matt Roberts has subsequently went on to sign for the Swansea City Academy.

1v1 Soccer FC will be hosting a Player ID camp with academy coaches from English Premiership team West Ham United on April 28-30thLearn More

Young players in Canada face challenges that they must overcome in order to compete with their counter-parts at academies in Europe:

1)      Training Hours – After U12, the top academies in England  have 12-15 hours/week contact time with players. Young players in North America typically have between 4.5-8hours/week

 2)      Quality of Coaching – in Spain there is 1 UEFA A or B licensed coach per every 27 youth players. In North America, we have 1 A or B licensed coach per every 800 + youth player

 3)      Game Understanding – as our players do not live in a ”soccer obsessed” culture, and see fewer professional games live they need to travel to Europe (or South America) in order to gain a greater understanding of the game at the highest levels

 4)      Technical skills – Our players continue to play too many games which negatively impacts the time that is being spent on developing technical skills. As Arsene Wenger famously said – a player’s level of technical skill will determine what level a young player ultimately plays at.

 1v1 Soccer FC will be launching an academy program in Clarkson High School in the fall – this will provide Elite players (Boys & Girls) with an additional 10 hours training/week –  Learn More

  We have a proven four step process for young players in North America so that they can successfully compete with young players in Europe and challenge for opportunities there:

 1)      Supplement your team training so you can get closer to 10-12 hours /week

2)      Select a highly-qualified performance coach to work with and/or take advantage of attending training opportunities with academy coaches from professional teams

 3)      Continue to work on your skills and earn an opportunity to train in Europe at some of the top academy programs so that you can get a complete understanding of the standards, the methodology to develop professional players, improve your game understanding and an opportunity to test yourself against academy players

 4)      Commit yourself to continuous improvement so that you earn opportunities for extended stays at a professional European club with game playing opportunities. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the full extent of your abilities in front on academy coaches at professional clubs.     

 We have been taking players to European Academy Programs for several years – read our training observations

FC Porto

Chievo Verona



At 1v1 Soccer FC we are happy to assist you as you move successfully through this four step process.

Please feel free to contact me directly at to let me know your unique training requirements and to learn about some areas that we can provide assistance in. You ca learn more about my coaching philosophy and methodology at


FC Porto Academy Trip Observations

1v1 Soccer Players Training at the FC Porto youth academy

On March 9th eight players from the 1v1 Soccer FC Masters program learn more travelled to Portugal to train at the FC Porto youth academy. The objective of the trip was to provide our young players with the opportunity to train at one of Europe’s top youth academies.

In a series of articles, I will be highlighting my coaching observations from our visit to the FC Porto academy.

By travelling to Europe, or young players are immersed in the culture of a leading football (soccer) nation. They are able to train with some of Europe’s top coaches, assess their own abilities by training alongside European academy players and receive feedback on performance improvements.

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FC Porto’s playing philosophy is highlighted by retaining possession through playing the ball on the ground and using rapid sequences of short passes to create goal scoring opportunities. The club have dedicated staff at the academy to specifically focus on technical development and out players benefited from daily morning sessions that were focused on individual player technical development. In the evenings the players joined in FC Porto academy players in a series of small-sided game activities, designed to improve decision-making and game understanding.


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Our players were praised for their dedication to improving and their physical attributes. The areas to improve upon are consistent with feedback we have received from other European academies. North American players need to improve their technical ability. They also need to understand the game better and not always be impatient to play forward all the time.

At Porto the youth players are comfortable to play the ball back, retain possession and wait for key moments to split the opposition and break lines into midfield and the forwards using quick passing sequences.

FC Porto – Club Background

FC Porto was founded on 28 September 1893. It is one of the top three clubs in Portugal – alongside Lisbon-based rivals Benfica and Sporting CP. They are nicknamed Dragões (Dragons), for the mythical creature atop the club’s crest, and Azuis e brancos (Blue-and-whites), for the shirt colours. Since 2003, Porto have played their home matches at the Estádio do Dragão, which replaced the previous 52-year-old ground, the Estádio das Antas.

Contact us for other European Academy Training Experiences

Porto is the second most successful Portuguese team, with a total of 74 official trophies. This includes 27 league titles and they are the only team in Portuguese league history to have won two titles without losing a game – the 2010–11 and 2012–13 seasons.

At the international level, Porto have won seven trophies – the European Cup/UEFA Champions League in 1987 and 2004, the UEFA Cup/Europa League in 2003 and 2011, the UEFA Super Cup in 1987, and the Intercontinental Cup in 1987 and 2004. FC Porto is the only Portuguese club to have won the UEFA Cup/Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, and to have achieved a continental treble of domestic league, domestic cup and European titles (2002–03 and 2010–11). Together with Barcelona and Real Madrid, Porto have the most appearances in the UEFA Champions League group stage (21).

FC Porto Youth Academy

FC Porto is recognized for having one of the top youth academies in Europe. The club has invested in renovating their former stadium, the Campo da Constituição, into a brand new training centre dedicated to their youth academy. The stadium, which served as home to FC Porto from 1913 to 1952 was converted in 2008 to a training complex – named the “Vitalis Park”. This youth centre serves as anchor for the club’s project “Dragon Force”, a youth development project based on football schools and trials for children aged from 4 to 14 years old. It is designed to help produce players for the first team, by exposing young players to the club identity, developing the players playing ability and developing life skills.

Improve your technical ability in our flexible training classes this summer

The ultra-modern Vitalis Park consequently also comprises a synthetic turf 11-a-side pitch and a covered synthetic 7-a-side pitch, both of FIFA 2 star rank for football turf fields. This provides their young players with a playing surface that offers safe and predictable conditions for player development. This helps optimize the players’ tactical and technical skills development, so that they can come up with better solutions to every game-related situation. It also helps facilitate more complete and creative players, who are trained to produce a very technical style of football.

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Performance Improvement Tip #35: What players aged 9-12 should focus on – a 4 corner model

ages-9-12In the future, the best players will be those who can excel in a fast-paced environment. There will be even greater demands on technique, tactical understanding and physical conditioning.  Players today are faster and cover greater distances than previous generations. Passing combinations are faster and there is an increased importance on controlling possession. More goals are scored through quick counter-attacking play and decision-making is of critical importance.

I am often asked what young players, aged 9-12 should focus on. The effect of role-models is very important at this stage of development. Young players should seek out role models and identify players and teams to follow. Young players should also begin to transition from being self-centered to being self-critical.  This is the “golden age of learning” and the most important age for skill development. This is also an important time to start to understand basic principles of play.

It is important to establish a good strong solid base. Young players should continually work on their dribbling ability, passing and receiving and how to successfully execute individual skills under the pressure of time, space, and an opponent.
• Dribbling: Take risks! Develop your moves to beat an opponent
• Improve your ability to keep possession. Work on shielding, spin turns and changes of speed and direction to get away from opponents
• Receiving: Work on the ability to receive and have a quality 1st touch – when receiving on the ground and in the air. Receiving using all surfaces should be developed
• Shooting: Proper striking technique from different angles should be worked on and taking shots on the volley and half-volley with both feet
• Passing: Proper technique – Laces, Inside, Outside, Short and Long; Crossing
• Heading: Jumping to head
• Tackling: Proper technique, in balance, no fear.

Team tactics do not take priority at this age. Focus should be on knowing how to maintain balance in the team (between attacking and defending) and playing skilful soccer.
Players should be open to playing a variety of positions to develop awareness and begin to understand basic principles of play such as:
• Retaining possession
• Taking players on 1v1 in proper areas of the field
• Off the ball movement to support teammates in possession and execute combination play
• Communication with teammates
• Apply proper defensive pressure from front/behind and be able to press and channel opponents

All fitness work should be done with the ball with an emphasis on developing :
• Flexibility
• Agility – with and without the ball
• Speed – teaching proper running technique
• Strength
• Endurance
• Balance

Enjoy the game and foster a desire to play. Focus in on the following areas:
• Encourage decision making
• Imagination / Creativity
• Discipline
• Good academic study habits

Performance Improvement Tip #34: What players aged 5-8 should focus on – a 4 corner model

ages-5-8In the future the best players will be those who can excel in a fast paced environment. There will be  even greater demands on technique, tactical understanding and physical conditioning.

Players today are faster and cover greater distances than previous generations. Passing combinations are faster and there is an increased importance on controlling possession. More goals are scored through quick counter-attacking play and decision-making is of critical importance.

I am often asked what young players, aged 5-8 should focus on. This developmental phase is preparation for the critical phase between ages 9-12. The rate of agility and motor skill development is very important as the young players learn the skills of adjusting their body shape to the path of the ball. This is also an important time for young players to begin to understand when to use certain skills during game situations.

Players must have fun and enjoy the learning process. The premise that players develop faster and experience more enjoyment in small side games is universally accepted and proven.


It is important to establish a good preparation phase of basic technical skills. The ability to dribble is critical since dribbling is the foundation skills and preparation for all other fundamental techniques of soccer, such as receiving, passing, and shooting. Young players aged 5-8 should focus on the following technical skills

  • Dribbling: Take risks and develop moves to beat opponents
  • Shielding: Practice quick changes of direction, with changes of pace.
  • Receiving: Practice receiving skills on the ground and in the air. Learn to take a first touch on the move
  • Shooting: Proper striking technique
  • Passing: Proper technique – Laces, Inside, Outside


Players at this age do not possess the analytical thought process to think ahead and plan their next play. In these age groups, being in possession of the ball is the most crucial moment during games. Players need to spend a lot more time practicing and not play too many games.

In games, young players should play a variety of positions to develop more game awareness and the basic principles of play.


There should be no focus on cardio fitness at these age groups and all activities should be fun and engaging. The areas that should be developed are:

  • Flexibility
  • Agility – with and without the ball
  • Speed – teaching proper running technique
  • Coordination – with and without the ball
  • Balance


  • Keep it FUN, enjoy the game
  • Learn to make decisions
  • Demonstrate imagination and creativity
  • Be disciplined to keep learning
  • Academics – Learn good study habits. Maintaining good grades and balance between school and sports are important.

Performance Improvement Tip #33: Be prepared to press, persist and possess

The modern game is one of flexibility. The game is more fluid than ever and the top teams now deploy “inverted full-backs and wingers”, false number 9s and ball-playing goalkeepers to deal more effectively with retaining possession and winning it back quickly. The game today resembles more and more the sport of basketball where the winning team typically is the one that has managed transitions between attack/defence better.

I have been reading Pedro Mendonca’s analysis of Pep Guardiola’s training methodology and last weekend I attended the Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma 2.  There is a central theme. The modern player is expected to win the ball quickly when it is lost. Pressing is becoming a very important part of the game. It can only be successful if it is collective effort and gone are the days when this responsibility fell to only the most industrious players on the team. Lionel Messi is expected to do it and scores many of his goals from Barcelona winning possession back quickly.


Coerver Coaching, the world’s leading teaching method for youth players has now added this aspect of the game to their curriculum. The Coerver method has always advocated a strong technical foundation to its curriculum and the individual player development of skill, speed, strength, spirit and sense is the DNA of Coerver. Their youth diploma course 2 has now added the box/trap system of team play to the curriculum so that Coerver teams can achieve success in both attack and defence. The box is how Coerver teams attack, the trap is how they will aim to defend and the box and trap are constantly forming and reforming all over the field.

The trap defence is a method for young players to be very active in winning possession back so that they can quickly go and attack. With Coerver’s trap defence, young players can now be encouraged even more to be creative and take greater risks when in possession (which supports the Coerver playing philosophy). This can be achieved when there is greater confidence in winning the ball back quicker.

The trap system is based on the 3 P’s – press, persist and possess. Young players are expected to immediately press all over the field and close space quickly when the ball is lost. They are expected to persist and break the rhythm of opponents in possession and once possession is gained they are expected to then probe for attacking possibilities and score goals.

Pep Guardiola ‘s Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams have been the greatest examples of this style of play in recent years. Coerver are now advocating that this exciting style of play can be implemented at youth levels so that all players are engaged once possession is lost and not merely spectators until the ball is won back. Attackers are expected to close space quickly and press, midfielders are expected to support them quickly and defenders are expected to move up and condense the space that opponents play in. 

The key to this style of play is the shared responsibility of the group and shared rewards-no exceptions! Th first player that applies the initial pressure gets as much credit as the 2nd, 3rd or 4th player who finally recovers the ball.

The game is changing and all young players must embrace the idea that pressing and all the additional effort that this requires is an important part of gaining possession to launch attacks and score goals.


We are launching our own Talent Development Program to mirror the success achieved by Germany in Developing Individual Players

ian-editWe are launching our first centre in Burlington and are looking now at other areas in Kitchener and Toronto.

Our vision is that these centres would be accessible and affordable to all and staffed by highly qualified skills coaches.








Read about the Talent Development Centres in Germany 

For several years we have been advocating that North America implements a network of skills centres where young players can drop into on a regular basis to work on and improve their skills.

This concept is nothing new.

Essentially, it is the principle reason that Germany have developed so many talented players in recent years. This was a key reason for their World Cup Success in 2014.

Join us in changing the game in North America!












Technical Development should be placed at the cornerstone of youth development. If young players can successfully master the ball…….then they will have the confidence to consistently make the right choices and create solutions for themselves and others on the field.

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Performance Improvement Tip #32: Train like Ronaldo – Develop your Brain!

ronaldoAs performance coaches, we are always looking at the secrets of success for the world’s greatest players. What made them the players they are today and how can the young players of today learn from their experiences as they progress down their own development pathway?
Hard work is a constant theme! There is no substitute for this and it is an element that many young players overlook. While players like Ronaldo make the game look easy and execute complex skills effortlessly, young players have not seen the sacrifice, struggle and hours of deep learning that have been responsible for their success.

Mick Clegg was Manchester United’s power development coach for 11 years and worked with Ronaldo for six years. Clegg worked closely with Ronaldo and attributes his success to the following:

“I get a lot of lads who come in and say that they want to be the next Ronaldo. They say they’ll work as hard as him, but they’re looking for a magic exercise that will turn them into him. There is no magic wand. Ronaldo’s secret was hard work and variety. He was in the gym every day and trained intelligently for six years.”

Clegg always feels that training the brain is a key element for a top professional footballer. Based on his work with Ronaldo he feels that after technical skill, speed is the next important thing in the modern game. According to Clegg the brain controls everything and if it can be developed, then physical and mental speed can be improved.  In his gym in Manchester, Clegg now works with young as 5 years of age and combines traditional weight training and brain work using several cutting-edge pieces of technology.

In 2010, Clegg traveled to Canada and met with leading brain experts to try and understand the science behind top players like Ronaldo. He consistently switches between big and intricate movements in his training to duplicate the demands constantly placed on players on the pitch (field).  A lot of his current work also revolves around developing players emotionally and putting them under pressure to see how they respond. He said Ronaldo was very good at that and it is a big reason why he has achieved the success that he has.

Clegg’s innovative work is paying dividends and he works with a growing stable of academy players from Premier League and Football League clubs. Last year he worked with a 15-year-old called Thomas Sang, who had not played for 18 months due to a series of serious injuries. After 6 months working with Clegg, he was signed by Manchester United!

Look for ways to develop your brain….it can improve your physical and mental speed!

Source: Four Four Two Magazine, November 2016

Performance Improvement Tip # 31: Develop at your own pace, you don’t have to be in a certain program at a certain age

zidaneOne of the greatest impediments of youth development in sports is the pressure placed on young players, by coaches and parents. One of the greatest pieces of advice that I can pass on to young players is enjoy the game (it is a game) and focus on improving your skills. Nothing else matters.

Look at all sports at the highest levels and you will see that the top performers progressed at different rates of development and took very different pathways to reach the top. For example, Barcelona’s front three Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all took very different paths.

Neymar developed within the Santos academy in Brazil and only moved to Europe when he was aged 20. Suarez moved to Holland and signed with Groningen in the Netherlands (aged 19) after leaving his native Uruguay and Messi moved with his family (aged 13) from Argentina to Barcelona. All three players had very diverse upbringings and soccer experiences along the way. There is not one pathway that can made you a world class player.

There is pressure placed on families to place young players in certain programs at certain ages. In Ontario for example the provinces governing body, the Ontario Soccer Association, is mandating that young players must play in the OPDL (Ontario Player Development League) to quality for the Ontario Provincial team!

I often think of the story told by Daniel Coyle about the reigning Olympic and world champion in slalom skiing. Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history, at 18 years and 345 days. From age 9, US national team coaches were begging her parents to let her join the national team program. Instead, she stayed at home, lived a normal family life and focused every day on improving her skills.

Kirk Dwyer, Shiffrin’s coach and headmaster described her approach to becoming a world class athlete:

“She truly believed that the focus should be on the process of getting better and not race results. Everyone on the world cup team says they want to race like they practice, but how many do? Mikaela can because she’s not thinking about trying to win. She’s thinking about getting better”

Daniel Coyle likened Shiffrin’s approach to mastering skills, outside a traditional big program, to that of Tiger Woods and Serena and Venus Williams. He felt that all these top athletes shared these common experiences during their development:

• Athlete ownership of the skill-development process – freedom to try things and experiment. They stayed at home and worked with their parents, rather than National team coaches

• More adaptability – did not follow the traditional pathways of buying into being “lumped” with the masses – you must have reached level X by age Y!

• Fewer demotivating experiences – by not competing on the so-called big stages early on, less pressure was placed on results and more focus on skills improvements

• Embracing normality – Doing chores, homework and being a regular kid built emotional skills, resilience and confidence at a natural pace. This helped them all deal better with challenges in life and sport later

My advice for younger players? Focus on daily improvements and don’t let others pressure you into thinking that you must be at a certain level at a certain age, or join a certain program to progress to higher levels of play. It simply is not true!


Performance Improvement Tip # 30: Use your phone….and maximize your potential

trainerize-image-2-0In recent weeks several professional coaches have spoke up or taken actions against players being on their phones excessively. Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has removed Wi-Fi from Manchester City’s training group after allegedly coming across a player on his cell phone in the treatment room. Similarly, Mansfield Town Manager Adam Murray has banned cell phone usage at his club
“I don’t like the amount of time people spend on their phones around the football club. They (the players) don’t talk and then they expect to go into an environment where you have to talk and it will just happen.” Read More

US College coach Mike Gundy believes that the standard of play at the US College level across all sports is being affected. He spoke out this week about the lack of preparation by todays young athletes coming into the college game and that the standard has suffered, during the last five years, because young athletes today are spending more and more time on their phones versus improving their sporting ability. Read More

Don’t be one of those players! Give yourself an advance over others by putting your time in on the training field. Daniel Coyle has written about forgetting about 10,000 hours and just focusing on 10 minutes/ day. Read More  By doing this, young players will benefit from their time spent with a ball and will gain tremendous advantages over other young players who do not put this time in.

We have actually utilized cell phone technology in order to increase the amount of time that our young players are spending on improving their technical skills. We have designed some video content that they can access on a daily basis, via their phones or iPad, so that they can follow their own training program at home, on their own schedule. The activities can be completed within a 5 m x 5 m area and incorporates a testing portion which provides the players with feedback on their progress. The sessions take about 20 minutes a day and we have also included some videos with information on game understanding, mental preparation and physical development so the players ae developing all four corners of their game – Technical, Tactical, Physical and Mental. Learn More
Our high intensity “deep practice” workout followed the following type of format and any young player can follow the following structure to achieve significant technical performance improvements:

2 mins: Warm-up: Free play with tennis ball or skipping

30 seconds: Fast footwork activity #1

90 seconds: Active rest – light ball work

30 seconds: Fast footwork activity #2

90 seconds: Active rest – light ball work

30 seconds: Fast footwork activity #3

90 seconds: Active rest – light ball work

30 seconds: Technical Test #1 & 2 (2 circuits)

90 seconds: Active rest – light ball work

*Circuit is completed twice

2 mins: Cool-down

If you would like to learn more about our online training program, then please contact us

Performance Improvement Tip # 28: How to Prepare for Pathways to Europe

wolves-rae-you-next-v2-0As soccer nations, the US and Canada are still very young.

With that comes a lack of structure at the professional levels of the game, when compared to the more “mature” soccer nations of Europe. There are fewer professional playing opportunities for the young North American players and a lack of clear pathways to play professionally.

Major League Soccer (MLS) does provide some options for young players; however, with only 20 teams for all of the US and Canada, opportunities are limited. MLS academies typically train 3-4 times/week with one game (which duplicates European academies) but this type of program is typically limited to players within a 1-1.5-hour drive time of the team’s training facilities.

There is a similar drive-time restriction at various age-groups for young players in England attending professional club academies, but the difference is that there are 92 professional clubs in England, meaning that the majority of young players are within a relatively short driving distance.

I have been fortunate to observe team players and the academy sessions at several European clubs and would conclude that young North American players have good technical ability and up to ages U12 can more than hold their own.

A gap appears from U12-U14, though, on the male side of the game, as the young European players at these ages tend to understand the game better. They take more responsibility during the game for their own performances and those around them. They demand the ball, have a vision for what they want to do, and are more capable of executing moves at a high tempo on a consistent basis.

I would say, though, that North American female elite players of any age can, on average, hold their own against Europeans. By the time they get to the U14 age the young European male players are quicker, stronger and much more physical in their play. On the “development” side of things, they also have sports scientists monitoring their development. In addition, they have a clear pathway to a career in professional football and are hungry to succeed. We are still lacking most of these things in North American soccer.

In my opinion, there are a couple of key ingredients young North American players must have if they are to successfully pursue playing options in Europe:

• Accessibility to an EEC passport, through parents or perhaps grandparents, as this makes it easier for European clubs to sign them within European Union regulations

• Commitment to focusing on improving their technical skills up to U12 levels

• After U12, be in an environment that mirrors the European model for development — player development over winning (MLS or private-academies)

• Opportunity to train in at one of the professional club academies or receive instruction from academy staff of professional clubs (For example, through our affiliation with the Wolves FC academy our young players receive a min. of 6 hours of training from Wolves academy staff in Canada each year with the additional options of being invited to attend a 3 days’ residential camp (Rome, Georgia) or  1 week training at the Wolves FC academy in England)

• Competitive games focussed on improving soccer education versus winning games. Within these games, players should learn what it takes to play multiple positions

• Develop confidence in their ability and mental strength to challenge themselves in training and impose themselves in games

• Opportunities to travel and play in Europe for an extended time i.e. greater than 1 month. These opportunities may also combine education with training as part of an overall development model.

If our young players are good enough and follow this process, then I believe that they can create opportunities for themselves to play overseas.

It is a very competitive environment in Europe. It is also more difficult for North American players to get signed as they do have to be significantly better than local players. But it is possible and with hard work and dedication, it can be achieved.

Just remember: “Hard work beats talent…especially when talent does not work hard”.