Written by Will Parchman

id2

The US Club Soccer id2 process might be the single most underrated and under-covered event in the American youth game. For a glaring reason why, let’s go back in time, to the ye olde days of 2012.

For some background, the id2 tour is the culmination of an identification process encompassing some of the best U14 players in the country at that time. US Club Soccer, in conjunction with U.S. Soccer itself, conducts a battery of invitational scouting events for some of the country’s top identified youngsters, and from that pool coach Gerry McKeown and his staff pull a team to take abroad for a high-level string of matches. They’ve been to places like the Netherlands, Argentina and Italy, and the 2017 team trekked to Spain.

As for that 2012 team, allow me to drop the roster on you. You might recognize a few of these names.

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Written by Will Parchman

u17lineup

If there’s anything obvious about CONCACAF these days, it’s that times have changed on the youth level.

There was a time not so long ago when the U.S. U17 MNT could expect a moderately difficult if eminently winnable pathway through CONCACAF to the World Cup. There was sweat, but very rarely anxiety. There’s a reason the U.S. has won this tournament three times and finished first in its group five straight years from 2001-2009. CONCACAF was slow in developing its collective youth apparatus, and the U.S. was a bully on the block. For decades, really.

CONCACAF has caught up, or at the very least it has narrowed the gap significantly.

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Written by Will Parchman

lennon

What Real Salt Lake ultimately expected out of Brooks Lennon on a brief one-year loan, back from his heralded career track at Liverpool, was more or less revealed three games into the 2017 season. And again about a month later, on Saturday night.

Lennon didn’t return from CONCACAF U20 World Cup qualifying until the eve of the season, about a day before RSL’s first game, and as a result he sat RSL’s first two games while acclimating back to the practice climate. Lennon had been, with few critical exceptions, the U.S.’s most consistently dangerous attacker off the right wing in Costa Rica and ultimately was the U.S.’s top goalscorer. If a few players played themselves off the World Cup roster, Lennon thrust himself into the starting XI with no doubts.

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Written by Will Parchman

fcd

In 2015, the FC Dallas U16 Development Academy side ran over the New York Red Bulls like a train through crepe paper. The 4-0 result left little doubt about the most holistically successful academy in the country at that age group at that moment. A year later, the FC Dallas U18 team recorded a 2-1 extra time win over the Whitecaps to win the same trophy at a later age (the U16s also won the natty title that month, but I digress).

On Sunday, the final continuation. FC Dallas’ U19 team – it was a collection of player ages, but under a U19 umbrella – became just the second American side to ever win the Dallas Cup Super Group with a hugely impressive 2-1 win over Monterrey on Sunday night in Frisco. It was the first time an American team had won this competition since 2006, when Omar Gonzalez’s Dallas Texans took home the event’s ultimate silverware.

The same FC Dallas age group, working its way up to older age ranges until pooling out here, just won three major trophies in three years, the last of which was an international trophy unmatched in American club soccer. There is no competition in the U.S. youth game harder to win and more prestigious to hoist than the one FC Dallas just won in Texas. There is the Gordon Jago Super Group, and then there are the others.

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Written by Will Parchman

union

Among MLS clubs at the 2017 Generation adidas Cup in Frisco, few acquitted themselves better than the rising Philadelphia Union academy. The Union have been beefing up their academy apparatus seemingly exponentially since opening the YSC Academy in 2013, and the recent addition of GM Earnie Stewart seemed to finally wed philosophy to reality.

Since then, the Union U16 and U18 Development Academy teams have annually been among the country’s best. They’ve already pushed out a U17 youth national teamer in Rayshaun McGann, a U20 youth national teamer in Auston Trusty and a bonafide Union first teamer in Derrick Jones. So it should perhaps not be such a surprise that the Union managed to win their group at the GA Cup’s Premier Division level (ostensibly the second tier) and earned a spot in the third-place game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Without question, the jewel performance of that run came against Monterrey, toting as they were one of the most lauded academies in Mexico and the prohibitive favorites to win the group. In that sense, the Union-Monterrey matchup was always likely to decide which way the group fell, and as we already know, the Union won the head-to-head.

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Written by Will Parchman

rb

New York is certainly upholding its end of the bargain in this year’s Generation adidas Cup.

In the Premier Division, the so-called second tier of the competition, NYCFC’s been the best MLS entrant in the field. The nascent academy’s won all four of its matches through Thursday, including a domineering 2-0 win over the Earthquakes in the Premier semifinals to reach the gold medal game. They’ll get a chance to bring back the Big Trophy with a win over vaunted LigaMX developer Tigres on Saturday.

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Written by Will Parchman

drogs

At least in the annals of the popular modern history of the fully professional game, in the days since photographs went from curled sepia-toned scraps of paper to filter-warmed Instagram posts, there has never been such a thing as a player-owner. Not really. It is somehow appropriate that Didier Drogba, a man of invested career incongruity (we’ll get to this in a minute, I promise), would be the one to fulfill those dreams with Phoenix Rising.

There has never been much about Didier Drogba’s career arc that resolved itself out of a granulated haze to me. He is a man of contradictions, and the best example I can think of arrived at the conclusion of his year at Marseille, the ostensible hinge point of his career.

Drogba’s is a sensitive soul, perhaps surprisingly so. His launchpad to Chelsea was a one-year stint at Olympique Marseille, where he scored 30 goals in all competitions. Chelsea’s transfer fee after that season — they offered about $1 million for every goal he scored that year — was too good for Marseille to ignore. When Drogba learned the club sold him entirely because they didn’t want to regret leaving that much money on the table, he broke down in tears sitting at his locker for a final time. He took the money and felt burdened by the exchange all at once.

When rumors spread that Drogba was flirting with a return to the club earlier this year, he was told in no uncertain terms by the club’s supporters to “return to China.” There is confusion everywhere.

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Written by Will Parchman

sargent

Josh Sargent went from the underground to topside almost immediately after the 2016 Nike Friendlies wrapped. Given that he didn’t benefit from MLS exposure, the talented U17 MNT striker was somewhat under wraps until he wrapped up the Golden Boot at the same tournament that ostensibly launched Christian Pulisic’s pro career.

Sargent is connected to the St. Louis Scott Gallagher academy, and Sporting Kansas City recently made a grab for his MLS Homegrown rights. That means if Sargent wants to join the league, he’d have to go through SKC to do it. Rumors abound that Sargent has his gaze set abroad, and when he turns 18 in 2018, he could well jump the pond. He was recently seen training with Schalke in Germany during the winter break.

Whatever happens, Sargent remains arguably the top striker prospect in the pool. We’ve analyzed and poured over Sargent’s scouting report, which you can read here. And now we’ve got video proof of his bonafides to drop on your doorstep. Drink it in.

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Written by Will Parchman

padee

It perhaps has not been the ideal Generation adidas Cup from an MLS perspective. MLS sides won just one of the four Champions Division groups (all hail New York Red Bulls), which means only one of the four semifinalists will be repping the hosting domestic league. In the grand scheme, it’s not that big a deal. This is a developmentally-focused tournament, after all. But we’re dealing with competitive folks here. Wins are fun.

In any case, the marquee matchup of this event from the off was always FC Dallas and Real Madrid. Ironically, the two met on Wednesday with little of substance to actually play for; the relatively unheralded Independiente del Valle from Ecuador had already won the group and made the FCD-Real Madrid matchup about table scraps.

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Written by Will Parchman

atlutd

Atlanta United’s in-progress training facility loomed over the start of its first MLS season like a giant gleaming Death Star. At $60 million it promised to be the single most impressive complex in the entire league, and it was to be shared by both the first team and the academy.

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