The US Youth Soccer National League Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Boys showcased their talents in meaningful and competitive matches today at Weston Regional Park in Weston, Fla., in conjunction with the Weston Cup.
Teams competing in Weston will wrap up their season tomorrow while the rest of the league will compete in Las Vegas March 23-25 before standings are finalized. While no Girls’ division titles were clinched before the Las Vegas event, two Boys teams can claim National League titles tomorrow as Under-15 Chicago Magic (IL) needs only a draw and Under-16 GSA 96 Phoenix Red (GA) will need all three points.
Under-17 Raiders FC (IL) have taken a one point lead in the Red division ahead of 4-0-0 Eastside FC 94 Red (WA), and hope to put the Northwesterners under heat with another win tomorrow. This is the third straight year Raiders have qualified for the National League and they claimed one of the National Championship bids in the 2009-2010 season and finished third in the division last season. The team is lead by head coach Minos Vlamakis, assistant coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago and an Illinois Olympic Development Program coach.
“The National League is great. We had a rough slip up against Eastside in the first game of the season and believe me, I wish we could take that game back and play them again, but that’s how you learn. We see a lot of different playing styles and it’s been fun because a lot of the schools these boys will be going to are going to have different styles. The Big 10 is a little more athletic, the ACC is a bit more of the ball on the ground and speed, so it really prepares these boys for a lot of different stuff. We’ve played teams from literally every corner of the country and I think it’s great for them because it’s something different than they’re used to. It’s done nothing but help the boys.”
Raiders have one player who has committed to school already, Brandon Medina
to Northwestern, but coach Vlamakis says he expects all of the Raiders to play in college.
“Brandon’s committed to Northwestern and there are a couple more that, probably within the next week or two, will announce their commitments and there are several other schools that have been following the club. These guys have been making a good name for themselves and all 20 players are capable of playing at the next level. The competition we’re seeing is great and like I said, it prepares the boys with what they need going forward.”
“Coming from a Division I coach, the teams in the National League are more than capable of providing that type of environment. Just from the games we’ve played in this weekend, there’s seven or eight Division I players on each team and that’s not going to change with clubs like Albion and Bethesda and these types of clubs playing in the National League. They’ve got the coaching and infrastructure that’s going to teach these kids the right way to play and the right way to carry themselves. Every match is a tough match and that, at the end of the day, is what’s going to make you better. From there, it’s really what kind of a training environment you’re in more than anything else.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Premier League, Midwest Regional League, Region III Premier League and Far West Regional League). The National League brings together some of the best teams in the country, all of which have earned their place in the league with a proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competition, regardless of club affiliation or location.
The National League provides a unique opportunity of progression for the top teams in the US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues. Teams that earned their spot to compete in the league compete against other top teams in the nation with the hopes of earning a league title and a ticket to the prestigious US Youth Soccer National Championships.
Some highlights from today's matches…Under-15 Boys
Region II champion and National finalist Chicago Magic (IL) are right where they hoped they’d be going into their final game of the season, needing just a draw to clinch the Blue division title and make it back to the National Championships for the second straight year. A loss would leave the door open for Albion SC White (CA-S), who could steal the division with three wins in Las Vegas. CESA 96 Premier (SC) could have pulled in front of Magic with a win today, but Magic shot out of the gate with three goals in the first 15 minutes to win 3-1. Renato Albuquerque moved into second place in the scoring race with his fourth goal of the competition in the 7th minute for Magic and Adrian Roman followed up with goals in the 13th and 15th to put CESA on their heels. Esteban Alvarado pulled a goal back for CESA two minutes after the break, but that would be all the scoring as Magic look to lock up the Blue title.
Region I champion Smithtown Arsenal (E-NY) can move to the front of the Red division with a win tomorrow after defeating Region III quarterfinalist West Pines United Black (FL) 1-0 today, but three teams competing in Las Vegas will still have an opportunity to pass them. Matthew Aprile scored the game winner for Arsenal in the 70th minute to lead Smithtown.Under-16 Boys
Region III finalist GSA 96 Phoenix Red (GA) was put to the test in their quest to clinch the Red division this weekend as a 61st minute penalty kick from Brahan Gamarra lifted them to a 1-0 victory over Bethesda SC Revolution (MD). A win tomorrow will punch GSA’s ticket to the National Championships, otherwise Connecticut state champ Beachside SC (CT) can still surpass the Georgians.
Region I finalist OBGC Rangers (MD) dropped a tough loss to Florida state champion SAA Real Madrid - Miami yesterday, but today’s 5-2 victory over DSC 95 Green Premier (SC), and SAA’s draw with Classics Eagles Red (OH-S), put Rangers two points ahead of SAA atop the Blue standings with Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks (AZ) still controlling their destiny in Las Vegas. Rangers went ahead with goals from Sean Cowdrey and two from Sam Schmidt in the first half. Julian Welborn pulled one back for DSC just after halftime, but Jeremy Ebobisse scored his league best eighth goal of the competition in the 52nd and Nicholas Tait added another in the 65th for Rangers before Welborn netted his second to finish the game.Under-17 Boys
Region III semifinalist AHFC 95 (S-TX) held their own destiny heading into Weston, but a draw yesterday and a 3-2 loss today to Region I champion Beadling SC 94/95 (PA-W) have AHFC with just a one point lead atop the group. Two-time defending National League champion and National finalist Albion White (CA-S) now control the group with their performance in Las Vegas. Lehigh University commit Jamie Luchini put Beadling in the lead just seven minutes into the game, but Kayode George leveled only two minutes later for AHFC. Luchini struck for his second in the 23rd minute before AHFC equalized again in the 63rd from Mario Toro. However, Michael Pcholinsky grabbed the game winner for Beadling in the 80th to secure the win.
Region II semifinalist Raiders FC (IL) now lead the Red division with a decisive 4-0 victory over Lake Grove United (E-NY), scoring three in the final 18 minutes. Alexis Monteon assumed the league scoring lead with eight total, bookending the game with strikes in the 33rd and 90th minutes. Javier Guzman also scored in the 72nd and Roberto Torres added another in the 86th.
Region II finalist Lou Fusz SC Gold (MO) and Region III semifinalist CESA 93 Premier (SC) were both hoping to clinch the Blue division this weekend, but after a 1-1 draw today and less than ideal results yesterday, the title will still be up for grabs come March. Robert O’Keefe put Lou Fusz in front in the 14th minute, but Alejandro Bedoya leveled for CESA just before halftime to earn the draw.
Javanon 94 (KY) ended their season with a 0-0 draw with Florida Rush Nike to take a two point lead in the Red division, however defending National Champion Grand Rapids Crew Juniors (MI) looms with three games left to make it up and defending National League champ Dallas Texans Red (N-TX) Region IV champion Rush Nike 94 (NM) are also within striking distance.
National League action continues Monday, Feb. 20, at Weston Regional Park with games at 8 and 10 a.m. and Noon ET. For complete standings, scores, schedules and match details, click here or go to /National_League/. Follow National League on Twitter (@nationalleague).