Tigres Orlando, an Orange County-based youth soccer team featuring several players from West Orange, won its bracket in a tournament in Mexico this past December.
Nine teenagers from the West Orange area, most age 14, were part of an Orlando-based soccer team that won its bracket in an international tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, last month.
Academia de Fútbol Tigres was only established in 2017, but already the new local soccer academy — which is based in Orange County out of both Winter Garden’s Lakeview Middle School and West Ridge Middle School, near Millenia — has this feather to put in its cap.
The academy took a group of largely 14-year-olds, playing under the moniker of “Tigres Orlando,” and won its bracket — a bracket for 16-year-olds.
The tournament — the Tigres UANL Copa de Futbol — was put on by Tigres UANL, a successful professional soccer team in Mexico based out of the greater Monterrey area with which Tigres Orlando has an affiliation.
The success of the team from Central Florida, at large, and of the nine players from the West Orange area that helped make it happen, bode well for the upstart academy.
“These are players that are very dedicated to what they do,” coach Victor Sheron said. “They really prepared hard for the competition.”
Local players who practice for Tigres Orlando out of its Lakeview Middle School location include Magaly Diaz Galvan, Johnny Herrera, Jaqueline Herrera, Janet Herrera, Rivaldo Basil Jimenez, Jason Mimy, Emerson Nambo, Daniel Rocha and Josmara Rodriguez. Of those, Jimenez, Rocha and Rodriguez played well enough to be approached by scouts concerning the possibility of participating in a development center in Mexico, though those conversations are ongoing.
The academy began its local operation in 2017. Its affiliation with Tigres UANL is something Sheron — who has coached professionally in Mexico and the Middle East — said sets it apart in the competitive landscape of Central Florida.
The club has an emphasis on affordability and works to serve lower-income enclaves of the region. It also places an emphasis on competing internationally: The team holds invitations to compete in places such as France and Spain and intends on competing in Monterrey again next December.
Sheron said starting an academy in the Orlando area was a no-brainer, largely crediting the success of the city’s MLS club: Orlando City Soccer Club.
“Soccer is big in Orlando, ever since Orlando City (Soccer Club) established itself here,” Sheron said. “They’ve done a lot to promote soccer in the area.”
With this early success for the program, Sheron and his staff of coaches are hopeful they can continue to grow the academy, especially in West Orange.
“We would really like to have more players from the Winter Garden and Ocoee area to join, because there is a lot of talent over there,” Sheron said.
And although the academy is affiliated with a team in Mexico and many of the program’s current players are of Hispanic heritage, he emphasizes Academia de Fútbol Tigres is excited to work with any aspiring youth dedicated to getting better and competing at a high level.
“We will take anyone who wants to play pro soccer — anyone (who) has that ambition,” Sheron said.