On road trips with the Crew, veteran Argentine teammates Gino Padula and Guillermo Barros Schelotto would often room together and discuss what to do when their playing days were done. Both players and their families fell in love with Columbus, so they hatched plans to settle down here and start a youth soccer academy.

On road trips with the Crew, veteran Argentine teammates Gino Padula and Guillermo Barros Schelotto would often room together and discuss what to do when their playing days were done. Both players and their families fell in love with Columbus, so they hatched plans to settle down here and start a youth soccer academy.

"We love the city," Padula said. "Our families are very happy here."

When the Crew chose not to re-sign either player last offseason, those plans began to swing into action. Both players returned to Argentina to regroup. In January, Schelotto joined his hometown club Gimnasia for a six-month stint. In March, he and Padula decided to come back to Columbus and launch the project they'd always talked about.

Schelotto & Padula Soccer Academy was born.

Padula returned to Columbus in April to start laying the groundwork. Schelotto will be here as soon as his season with Gimnasia wraps up next month. Though they've partnered with former Fisher Catholic and Pickerington North coach Guillermo "Willy" Zarate, both ex-Crew stars will be in Columbus full-time to lead the training sessions.

"I finished playing soccer because I would like to be focused 100 percent on this project," Padula said. "That's the main reason I decided to stop playing."

Schelotto and Padula were starters on the Crew's 2008 MLS Cup-winning squad. Schelotto won the MLS MVP and MLS Cup MVP awards that season and is a paparazzi-stalked legend in Argentina thanks to his storied career with Boca Juniors.

Their program is open to boys and girls of all skill levels ages 6 to 18. Registration is open year-round. Rather than play midweek games, the focus for each 16-week season will be midweek training sessions with tournaments on weekends. Padula said players who are signed up with other clubs are not excluded, as long as they can foot the bill (ranging from $449 to $899).

"We would like to give a chance for everyone in Columbus to join us," Padula said.