Larry Sunderland sat at an angle inside the conference room. While his body pointed toward the table, his eyes looked at the three practice fields outside the window. In particular, glanced at the field on the far right – the field where the FC Cincinnati Academy play their matches.

Since the FCC Academy’s first practices on Aug. 1, players have always trained at the Mercy Health Training Center. Previously, that meant initially training at a temporary facility.

But since MHTC’s grand opening on Wednesday morning in Milford, the Academy’s new home is the same as the first team’s players.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for our young players here to be able to train in an environment like this,” said Sunderland, FCC’s director of player development. “I always say to the young players, ‘If you want to be a pro, be a pro now.’ This is an opportunity for them to be in a professional environment every single day.”

The FCC Academy have their own wing at the Mercy Health Training Center. From the main lobby, a quick right takes you through a set of doors and into a gray hallway lined with four locker rooms, a staff office and a medical area. Consider this the HQ of future Greater Cincinnati MLS Homegrown Players.

But it’s not symmetrical to the first-team setup, however.

The Academy wing was designed to be a skeleton of the qualities the first-team players are accorded. The thought being that Academy players need to aspire to be professional players, and they need to aspire to be on the other side of the building … through the double doors.

“They get to see the first-team guys and they can look down the hallway and know that, yep, there’s a door that separates us. But we’re knocking on that door,” Sunderland said. “One day, we want to get through that door.”

The first chance for the Academy to use the new locker rooms will be Sunday, when both the Under-15 and Under-17 Teams host Saint Louis FC Academy. That’ll be the first time that youth players utilize their new home. Note: FCC Academy matches are closed to the public this Fall. The club expects to open them to the public during the Spring portion of the schedule. 

“(MHTC) is an inspiration for the players that are here and it’s an inspiration for the players in the region,” Sunderland said. “When you build a facility like this, pick any player in the world and they’re going to come here and say, ‘Wow.’ Whether it’s a youth player or whether it’s a full international, they going to come here and know this place is certainly tops in North America and it can compare with anything out there.”