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Academy Preview: Holding on to hope

Article Written by J.R. Eskilson
Published: April 18, 2013

In total, 58 of the USSF’s Development Academy clubs will take the field on Saturday in one of the busiest weekends of the season. The elite boys club soccer league is hitting the final stretch of the season, and much of the focus will soon turn to the playoffs in Frisco, Texas in late June.

Thirty-two teams make the playoffs in each age group with 19 coming from the top three teams in each division (sans the Northwest and Southwest which only send two teams) and the other 13 coming from wildcard berths.

ben swanson club soccerBen Swanson

The points accumulated this weekend and the half-dozen or so that follow will be crucial for any team hoping to head to Frisco for the playoffs and not the showcase.

East Conference

McLean Youth Soccer U18 holds down the final spot in the wildcard standings with a 1.58 points per game mark after a 2-2 draw against Richmond Kickers last week. McLean takes on Potomac on Saturday, which should be a great opportunity to pick up all the points on the road. Potomac is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, and looks to be limping to the end of the season in the Atlantic Division.

At the top of the standings in the U18 age group, PDA is trying to close the gap on New York Red Bulls for the top seed. The New Jersey club takes on the Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers over the weekend. After being held to a scoreless draw against FC Delco last weekend, PDA needs all the points from these two clashes to keep pace at the top of the U18 national standings. PDA goalkeepers Eric Gutierrez and Michael Renna have now recorded four shutouts in a row.

FC Delco is also in the hunt for a wildcard spot in the U18 age group. The Pennsylvania club travels to D.C. United on Saturday for an important division clash. George Tsirukis scored the lone goal in the meeting earlier this season where FC Delco won 1-0.

In the younger age, PA Classics U16 holds onto the final wildcard spot for the playoffs. McKinley Curran and Christian Pulisic have been the main weapons in the attack for PA Classics with 18 goals between the two this season. Classics take on Match Fit Academy on Saturday.

New York Red Bulls hold the top spot overall in both age groups with the U16 side possessing a more comfortable lead with that position. Red Bulls take on New England Revolution on Sunday at NJIT.

Central Conference

Some of the MLS academies’ U18 teams have fallen off pace after red-hot starts to the season. Chicago Fire U18 has dropped back into the eighth wildcard spot, which means a playoff spot is far from assured for the club that started the season so brightly. Fire takes on local rivals Chicago Magic PSG on Saturday.

Crew Soccer Academy is in the same boat, as the Ohio club is just outside of the playoff picture at this point but would greatly benefit from a six-point week in the U18 age group. Crew takes on St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro and St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri over the weekend. Crew enjoyed the return of U.S. U17 men’s national team midfielder Benjamin Swanson to the lineup in its last outing.

In the Frontier Division, Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City both remain in the hunt for a playoff spot in the U18 age group. Sporting Kansas City makes the trek to Colorado this weekend for games against Colorado Rush and Real Colorado. Rapids take on local rivals Real Colorado. Sporting Kansas City has also enjoyed the return of one of its U17 MNT players as Erik Palmer-Brown rejoined the club last week. The youngster logged 46 minutes in the 4-3 win over the Rapids.

Classics Elite U16 is trying to avoid a shutout season in the Development Academy as the Texas team remains the only team to not pick up a point this season. Classics take on Houston Dynamo this weekend. And only has four more games left on the calendar to nab any points.

West Conference

Chivas USA U18, also one of the final teams inside the playoffs at the 12th wild card spot, takes on Arsenal FC on Saturday. Chivas USA is on a two-game winning streak behind the quality of striker Caleb Calvert who has three goals in the last two games.

With an eight-game unbeaten run, Portland Timbers U16 have moved into a playoff spot recently in the ninth wildcard spot. Timbers take on Santa Cruz Breakers and De Anza Force over the weekend.

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