Get In The Game
XL Soccer World opens in Lake Nona
Ciaran McArdle is a Laureate Park resident, father of four, entrepreneur, and CEO of XL Soccer World, Lake Nona’s new home for indoor soccer and more.
The new 50,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility is the company’s 10th location across the U.S., second in the Orlando area, and the first one they’ve built from the ground up.
The facility offers a variety of youth programs and adult leagues for players of all ages and skill levels with two turf fields and two multipurpose courts all under one roof for year-round, air-conditioned play.
In this Q&A, McArdle shares the origin story of XL Soccer, how they customized this new location, and what’s next for the world of soccer in Lake Nona.
Q. What led you to Lake Nona?
My wife and I were living in Longwood when we heard about Lake Nona. We thought the community and its focus on healthy active lifestyles sounded like a great place for an indoor soccer facility. One day we decided to go for a drive through Lake Nona and loved it so much we signed on a house in Laureate Park three days later. We’ve lived here for five and half years now – so close to the new facility I can walk or bike to work!
Q. Tell us about your background – How did you get into coaching soccer?
My background is in electronic engineering. While I was in school at the University of York in England, I spent my summers coaching soccer in the U.S. I thought I’d eventually get a real job in avionics until I met my business partner when I was coaching soccer at Harvard in Boston.
We both love to play soccer and have an entrepreneurial spirit and thought the best way for American youth to experience soccer was to show them how we play in England. So, we started a company together called XL Soccer Tours – which still exists today – that takes youth teams to England to train with professionals, play against English youth teams, and go to live games.
Several years ago, we had an opportunity to buy an indoor soccer facility in Raleigh, North Carolina to use as an office for our travel business. That became our first location and the business snowballed from there. We opened our second indoor soccer facility in Winter Park and then continued to find other locations. The Lake Nona location is unique because it’s the first we’ve built from scratch.
Q. What’s new and different about the Lake Nona location of XL Soccer World?
In Lake Nona, we had the opportunity to customize the layout of our facility to include the best features from other locations. All of our other locations existed as warehouses or multisport facilities before we moved in. One thing we learned from other locations is that many were too big at about 120,000 to 150,000-square-feet. Our facility in Lake Nona is a much more efficient use of space at 50,000-square-feet.
Outside, we installed bike racks so residents can cycle to practices and games. Inside, we created a reception desk that doubles as a sports bar where you can hang out with the family, get a drink, have a snack and watch the games in a more welcoming environment where kids are free to run around. Above the playing fields, we included new state-of-the-art scoreboard technology that allows you to see the score, watch instant replays, and more. Games are recorded so your team can hang out in the lounge after the final score and watch the play back.
Q. What other sports can you play at XL Soccer in Lake Nona?
Our Lake Nona location is one of three facilities in our portfolio that is exclusively for indoor soccer. All other locations are multi-sport. However, in Lake Nona we included two special courts for a different kind of soccer called futsal that is played on a hard surface with a denser ball.
Futsal is very popular in South America and becoming more popular here, so we offer a youth futsal program and adult futsal league. We designed the futsal court on a multipurpose surface so you can also play volleyball, basketball, flag football, and lacrosse there as well.
Q. What is your vision for the future of XL Soccer World in Lake Nona?
Our new facility will become the center of soccer in Lake Nona. Expect soccer fans of all ages and skill levels cheering each other on and watching professional live soccer games from across all the major international club leagues, crucial country qualifiers, and tournaments. To this end, we value our current partnership with the Orlando City Soccer Club at our Winter Park location and look forward to collaborating with them in Lake Nona in the near future.
We’re also excited to host regional and national tournaments in Lake Nona. The first one will be a regional adult tournament in February 2021 followed by the national youth soccer championship in 2022.
For more information or to sign-up for classes, visit www.xlnona.com.