The winter update for the 2016 girls IMG Academy 150 is out today, and a couple of U.S. U20 Women’s National Team forwards bookend the top five. Real Colorado’s Mallory Pugh remains No. 1, while GSA’s Jennifer Westendorf inches up to the No. 5 spot. Both received invitations to January’s U20 WNT camp in Florida, and were the only 2016 graduates in attendance. Pugh has one of the best goals-per-game averages in the ECNL’s U17 age group, with 13 goals in 11 matches, while Westendorf has finished her season at GSA with 32 goals, her total besting almost 90 percent of the TEAMS in her age group.
Among those moving up the rankings this quarter are Surf SC forward Sunny Dunphy, Slammers goalkeeper Amanda Dennis, and Connecticut FC defender Chantelle Swaby. Dunphy moved to Surf full time this year from USYS National League participant Carlsbad United SC. She has scored seven times in 11 matches for the fifth-ranked Surf U18s, and earned her first invitation with the U18 WNT in December. Dunphy is verbally committed to UCLA and climbs from No. 29 to No. 24.
Dennis has several Best XI accolades under her belt in the past year as a result of her superior shot-stopping ability, and has been a part of the last three U18 WNT camps, raising her rank to No. 42. Swaby, a Rutgers verbal commit, is a solid defender for CFC’s U16 ECNL squad that is just beginning its regular season, and climbs to No. 85.
Players entering the rankings for the first time, or re-entering after some time out, include Dallas Sting defender Kirsten Siragusa, St. Louis Scott Gallagher-Illinois forward Makayla Waldner, and FC Virginia midfielder Tess Sapone. Siragusa was a part of the IMG Academy 150 a couple of years ago when she made an early verbal commitment to Oklahoma State, and has since become an integral part of the defense for the Texas Conference leaders, earning an invitation to December’s U18 WNT camp in Florida, and a No. 65 ranking. Waldner, at No. 90, formerly played for Western Kentucky club Panathinaikos and transferred to Jeff Besserman’s ECNL squad in southern Illinois for the current season, having given her verbal to Mississippi State. Sapone, at No. 118, is a midfielder on the fourth-ranked FCV U17s, and will be headed to Florida in 2016.
Not only has the IMG Academy 150 received scrutiny, but the regional lists have been updated as well. Keep checking back this week as we unveil newcomers such as Maryland United forward Nia Dorsey, Minnesota Thunder midfielder/forward Mariah Haberle, Atlanta Fire United defender Erin Rhodes, New Jersey Stallions outside mid Jill Vassallo, and many, many more.
As far as how we arrive at the rankings, it’s no simple task.
We keep a national database of players as the starting point for our rankings (if you’re not in it, enter a profile here).
We track an extensive list of selections to national team camps and other honors including USSF Development Academy (Boys), ECNL (Girls), and U.S. Youth Soccer National League event and season awards, plus U.S. Soccer Training Centers, ODP, id2 and other player identification programs.
From there we look at additional signs of top player performance in a club environment, with the help of an extensive network of observers around the country. The priority here is for club, college, national team and other select team coaches on the ground, but especially when we can gain corroborating opinions. The more layers of opinions we can gain accumulate the better, as our role is primarily to aggregate those viewpoints, rather than making our own determination as to a player’s quality.
As a matter of policy, we never share which coaches said what about whom so that coaches will be freer to share their assessments. Another policy is that parents’ opinions about their own children are not considered, but you are welcome to provide feedback about honors and other details that may be of help to us in keeping their profiles up to date as well as our challenge of sifting through thousands of players nationwide. That kind of data can be helpful, but the: “How can you not have rated my kid? He is awesome” communique, while compelling, will be consigned to the virtual trash.
In the end, there’s always some level of subjectivity about players, because after all, how good someone is relative to someone else is largely a matter of opinion, but we do our best to make our rankings as educated an opinion as can be.
The rankings will be updated every quarter. Keeping current rankings for 8 classes of 150 players each is no small task, and it is counterintuitive to think the rankings would change daily or weekly. We will announce each update.
So that’s it. You can see the newest version of the rankings here.