Before the 2017 Development Academy playoffs kick off on June 20 in Indiana, the younger age group will get its chance to shine.
One hundred Under-14 DA sides will descend on Westfield, with the opening salvo of games set to take place at Grand Park.
Keep an eye on these teams and players over the next few days.
Teams to watch
FC Dallas - It’s impossible to dig into a Development Academy event without lauding the accomplishments of FC Dallas, and it will likely be more of the same in Westfield. One of the marquee matchups of the showcase comes on the first day, when FC Dallas takes on New York Red Bulls, two of the better MLS Academies. FCD will then tussle with Sacramento Republic FC, and then another must-watch affair against LA Galaxy to wrap things up on the final day.
Georgia United - Much of the focus when it comes to development in the Atlanta region focuses on the MLS upstart, though the bulk of its current academy at the older age groups hails from Georgia United. The U14 side only has three losses on the season, and will face a difficult test on the first day against LA Galaxy.
LA Galaxy - In 30 games this Dev. Academy season, the Galaxy have run rampant, scoring 141 goals. It’s hard to know exactly how they might approach this week, as they do emphasizes moving players to older age groups. That might mean top scorers like Marco Ceja (32 goals in 18 games) and Victor Cano (21 goals in 17 games) end up playing with the U16 side. Midfielder Martin Killeen recently captained the U.S. U14 BNT on its trip to Croatia. Regardless of who steps on the field, LA is sure to put up plenty of goals.
Toronto FC - With 91 club sides in the U14 Development Academy, nine extra teams are making the trip to Westfield. Among them are a few MLS sides that don’t normally operate in that age group (in the DA, at least). Toronto FC has heavily invested in its academy setup, and they’ll get games against Beachside SC, FC Golden State and Solar Chelsea. This week marks a return to Indiana, as TFC sent a side to the U14 DA showcase back in October. Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders can also be lumped into the same group as Toronto, as they’ll compete at the Showcase despite not regularly a part of the DA.
Vardar SC - The Michigan club power has spun off five straight wins entering the showcase, and save for the odd result here or there, are a difficult team to score upon. In fact, the last goal they’ve conceded came on April 29 in a 1-1 draw with the Minnesota Thunder Academy. Goalkeeper Nick Navarre’s been a big part of that, appearing in 25 games this season.
De Anza Force SC - A well-known side for long-time observers of the U.S. club soccer scene, De Anza’s put up impressive numbers during the season. Finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a 25-4-1 record, the team’s succeeded with its attacking soccer, scoring plenty of goals. Six players on the team have at least 10 goals; the NorCal side faces Vardar, New York Red Bulls and Georgia United.
DC United - While neither of United’s older age groups qualified for playoffs, a big part of that can be attributed to pushing players up an age group. There is a decent level of young talent on their U14 roster, whether it’s U.S. youth national teamers Jacob Greene or Jeremy Garay, or Moses Nyeman, a 2003 that’s been seeing time with the U16s of late. Games against Orlando City, Sporting KC and Pateadores are on the docket for DC.
New York Red Bulls - Deadly in front of goal and stout in defense, the Red Bulls won 22 of its 24 games in the Development Academy at this age group. Hamza Shehata leads the defense, playing every game for a back line that conceded just 19 goals on the campaign. Goalkeeper Alex Bobocea has a handful of U.S. youth national team camps under his belt over the past year.
Players to Know
M Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal, St. Louis Scott Gallagher - Part of the Futures Camp earlier this season, Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal is the younger brother of Wan Kuzan Wan Kamal, who currently features for Sporting KC’s Academy/USL team. Wan Kuzri’s played in 22 games this season ahead of the showcase, and will look to make an impression against a trio of opponents in Indiana.
F Dante Sealy, FC Dallas - Chances are that Sealy ends up seeing minutes with FC Dallas’ U16 team in the playoffs, though he is a must-see player at this age group. Sealy’s strike rate of 26 goals from his 20 games is impressive, and he’ll enter the showcase fresh off a U14 BNT trip to Croatia.
M Paxten Aaronson, Philadelphia Union - Small, technical players are still relatively rare to spot in Development Academy sides, though Aaronson’s shown previously he can handle higher level play. Aaronson’s chipped in three goals from 20 appearances this season, and earned a call-up to a U14 BNT this year.
F Kaya Ignacio, Lonestar SC - The accomplished academy in Texas is always a tough out at these events, and the spearhead of its attack is Ignacio. The prolific striker played in all 25 matches this season, scoring 21 goals. His two-goal effort against FC Dallas back on April 8 handed the MLS side a rare defeat on the season.
D Morris Matthews, New England Revolution - The U.S. U14 BNT defender has played up an age group, as he’s also been part of the Revolution U13 team this season. Matthews will anchor New England’s U14s in Westfield.
F Nathaniel Carrasco, Sacramento Republic FC - One of the nation’s top scorers in the age group, Carrasco’s scored 42 goals in 29 games this season. He’ll go up against FC Dallas, Vardar and Oakwood SC.
D Prince Amponsah, NYCFC - It’s been an impressive start to the campaign for NYCFC, and one of its key players at this age group has been Amponsah. He’s played in 25 of the team’s 27 games, and provided he stays with his age group, he’ll be key at the back for NYCFC.
F Israel Cerda, Ballistic United SC - Another prolific scorer, Cerda’s netted 25 goals in 29 games for the California side. He’ll test himself against Baltimore Armour, Colorado Rush and Bethesda SC.
M Jack McGlynn, BW Gottschee - A midfielder with a couple of stints for the U.S. Under-14 Boys National Team, McGlynn’s made 22 starts for the New York club side. Gottschee faces St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri, Chargers SC and Dallas Texans.
F Jake Means, Real So Cal - Winners of five of its final six games of the season, Real So Cal’s been propelled by the goal-scoring efforts of Means. 29 goals from 22 games is an impressive return, though Means could certainly play up with the U16s.