When investigating possible pre-World Cup training sites throughout Europe, the U.S. Women’s National Team coaching and administrative staff knew what boxes they wanted to check. It was then a matter of finding a facility that checked those boxes.
Sites were evaluated in France, Spain, Portugal, England and Italy. In the end, there was a consensus number-one choice from the coaches: “We want to go to Tottenham.”
The Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre in Enfield, England, looks amazing in photos. It’s even better when experienced in real life.
- World-class fields: √
- Excellent food: √
- Serene and relaxing: √
- High-end sleeping rooms: √
- Top-of-the-line media facilities: √
- Quality gym, equipment rooms, training rooms: √, √, √
It’s an environment that U.S. head coach Jill Ellis and her staff wanted to provide for the players ahead of what will be the most competitive Women’s World Cup in history and she’s appreciative that U.S. Soccer was willing to work with Tottenham to organize the 10-day training camp.
“It’s the perfect place to focus on our on-field preparations, but it’s also a place that promotes synergy and a social aspect because of the surroundings,” said Ellis. “It’s just beautiful and the housing and amenities are world class. All-in-all, the combination of providing for the players’ bodies and minds is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Widely recognized as one of the best soccer training grounds in Europe, if the not the world, the Training Centre is located in North London about 16 miles from the city center and features 15 grass pitches, world-class player preparation areas, a pool and hydrotherapy complex, an altitude room, a large-scale gym, specialized rehabilitation suites and a staff that is as charming, accommodating and professional as any the USA has ever experienced in its travels around the USA and the world.
“This place is heaven,” said U.S. forward Tobin Heath, a player who has often had a transcendental relationship with soccer pitches. “From the grounds to the accommodations to the food, everything is so thoughtful and purposeful to create a completely present football experience.”
The U.S. players are housed at The Lodge, an eco-friendly high-end building on the training site that is oozing with Feng Shui. Among its many amenities, the building complex features luxurious high-tech hotel-type rooms for the players and staff, a boot room, a locker room, meeting rooms, training room, equipment room and a restaurant, all just a short walk from each other. The encompassing landscaping, featuring a vast variety of plants and flowers, would be the envy of any world-class resort and flatness and plushness of the fields put many a snooker table to shame.
“This facility is a footballer’s paradise,” said U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who through her 11 years on the National Team and 158 caps has seen many a training site. “Anything you would possibly need is provided, and at a world class level. It’s the entire experience, not just the fields or the locker rooms, it’s the entire set-up from where we sleep to where we meet. It a place dedicated to trying to make sure every player is at their absolute peak every time they step up on the field.”
On one night, the U.S. team was treated to an American-style BBQ, expertly prepared by the culinary staff, that took place in a serene and idyllic area of the facility, cut into the side of a small hill with flowers and walking paths, next to a pond with water spouts, and with numerous species of birds swooping in for a look. The team has also been enjoying perfect training weather.
The USA’s practice field is a just a short walk from The Lodge and the surface has gotten five-star reviews from the players.
“The fields are world class,” added Sauerbrunn. “They’ve got 15 of them here and they seem like they all are in pristine shape. Our practice field is one of the nicest fields I’ve ever stepped on and the other fields are exactly the same, so you can see the groundskeepers take a lot of pride in the presentation.”
The U.S. team will soon leave Tottenham and travel to France for final preparations before taking on Thailand on June 11 in Reims to open its 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the memories of The Lodge and the training grounds will surely stick with the players for their entire careers.
“I feel like this place feels so open and warm and welcoming and I feel like it’s created to bring people together,” added Heath. “There’s so many communal spaces that people want to be that just creates a really cool dynamic and that’s been great for us at this time in our preparation.”