La Masia
Photo by Mike Smith

Postcard from Spain: Portland Timbers academy co-director Mike Smith studies at FC Barcelona

Last winter, Portland Timbers Academy Co-Director Mike Smith was amongst a selection of coaches and academy directors from across Major League Soccer who were selected for a special Elite Formation Coaching License development program that drew upon some of the best practices of academy systems across Europe.

Smith was first sent to France where he studied at Clairfontaine—the French Football Federation’s national training center—and then later spent time with Ligue 1 team Paris St. Germain.

Now in Spain, Smith has been embedded at the famous La Masia academy of FC Barcelona. This is the first of his updates from abroad:

It looked very different from Week 1 in the snow of February! The two sessions there had us working with the French Regional Training Center players, with a translator. The emphasis for the first week was on Sports Science and I am looking forward to sharing and implementing some ideas when I get back.

As part of this new course, we have to study the Academy system of two professional clubs. My first was PSG and the second, where I am this week, is Barcelona.

I got here on Friday and got to see the U19 team play a French league game against Girona. The U19’s are in the U19 Champions League (new this year) and mirror the schedule of the first team in that competition. They are playing Celtic in Scotland today and we hope to watch it on Barca TV, their own TV channel.

We also got to view their U8’s, U10’s, U12’s, U14’s and U16’s play over the weekend and it was fascinating to see. They play 7v7 from the youngest age, up to U13, where they switch to 11v11. There are definitely a few future Messi’s, Xavi’s and Iniesta’s there!