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Right To Dream: The Blueprint

You’ve probably heard about some of the graduates of the Right to Dream programme, such as Mohammed Kudus, Ernest Nuamah, and Kamaldeen Sulemana, but what makes this academy so successful and its hit rate so high?

Let’s go back to the start. Tom Vernon, an ex-Manchester United scout, started the academy back in 1999. The attendees would live in Vernon’s house, and the operations were run by volunteer staff. For the next 5 years, the academy grew bigger, and schools in the United States offered some of the players scholarships to take a trip over the pond.

Right to Dream: Getting Bigger

In 2010, the Academy opened a new facility away from the capital of Accra, in Akosombo, south of Ghana. Five years later, in 2015, the first Right to Dream school opened, partnering with competent private schools in each of the locations of the nearby academies.

In 2015, Right To Dream acquired FC Nordsjælland, a Danish club playing in the first division. That marked the beginning of something extraordinary in terms of streamlining Ghanaian talent into well-renowned talent development in Denmark.

  • Mohammed Kudus
  • Ernest Nuamah
  • Kamaldeen Sulemana
  • Andreas Schjelderup
  • Simon Adingra
  • Ibrahim Osman

Just some of the names who have represented FC Nordsjælland in the past 5 years from the academy.

Takeover and future plans.

In 2021, the elite development programme took a new direction with its expansion into Egypt. The Egyptian Mansour Group acquired FC Nordsjælland, leading to the establishment of an academy in Egypt initially, with plans for further expansion to San Diego in the United States in the short to mid-term.

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Right To Dream, in May 2023, received the green light for an MLS franchise in San Diego. This entails the establishment of a new academy and the development of a competitive team within the next 2 years. It’s an exciting project, further indicating that the blueprint of Right To Dream is a model for the future.

“The playing style has to be within Right To Dream’s beliefs, meaning it’s aligned with FC Nordsjælland.”

Flemming Pedersen – Technical Director at Right To Dream.

The US is a relatively untapped market for European clubs and academies. Right To Dream plans to connect players and staff, establishing a pathway across the pond. This becomes much easier when core principles are in place, creating a plug-and-play strategy for future acquisitions.

When the pathway, environment and principles are in place. The talent is easy to spot.

If you maintain the same principles across all your institutions, evaluating the performance of players becomes much easier, based on who stands out and who doesn’t. Development isn’t linear, far from it, but the pathway and plan have to be for the academies to have the hit rate of Right To Dream.


An important note on how the academy is perceived is that it’s not just a football talent production facility. The alumni attend school, and each gets their chance on the pitch, but the academy also nurtures elite mindsets early on in creating their identity. This makes for many great careers off the pitch as well.

An action at FC Nordsjælland for the attendees. Four different states of character development:

  • Be the best version of yourself. Gratitude, take responsibility, be resillient.
  • Community. Togetherness, friendship.
  • Communication. Verbal, non-verbal.
  • Go through tough times. Feelings, nervousness, resistance.

The success coming to fruition.

The club’s main goal is to have the highest number of academy players from Denmark playing for the first team. Currently, more than 50% of the squad has represented FC Nordsjælland at the youth level. To get to that level of consistency, the common thread through the ranks is in focus; technical players with self-belief, quick decision-making and a winning mentality with an emphasis on playing attacking football.

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An analysis made by the Cies Football Observatory in September 2022, revealed that FC Nordsjælland had the youngest average age in the starting lineup among 60 different leagues worldwide. Based on data from the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons, the report also showed, that FC Nordsjælland gave the most playing time to U21 players, with 74% of the total minutes.

FC Nordsjælland ended in a relegation fight in the 2021/2022 season, before challenging for the title in 2022/2023 ending second.

The success is not only how the first team performs. It’s also how their academy graduates, now at big clubs around Europe, perform. Simon Adingra just won the AFCON Young Player of the Tournament while also leading his country to the title. Mohammed Kudus breaking out as one of the best wingers in the Premier League. Ibrahim Osman securing his move to Brighton in the Summer of 2024.

The Right To Dream has a blueprint in place for the future of football.

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