This week, 32 of the Development Academy sides making the trip to Frisco, Texas, will duke it out for spots in the quarterfinals of the Under-16 playoffs.
Plenty of talented players will be on display in each group encounter, with the stakes rarely higher for some of these players.
Here’s a group-by-group look at what to expect from the U16 teams in the playoffs.
Vancouver Whitecaps (23-5-3)
Philadelphia Union (15-5-6)
Real Salt Lake AZ (18-13-5)
Kendall Soccer Coalition (14-10-8)
Teams looking to progress from this group must find a way to slow down the top scorer in the age group, Vancouver’s Alan Camacho Soto. His 29 tallies guides a high-powered offense that scored 89 total goals during the regular season season. Vancouver is one of a trio of MLS Academy teams seeking to progress to the quarterfinals from Group A. Luis Arriaga and Aristotle Zarris have been played critical roles in RSL’s success to this point, while Philadelphia’s put together a decent defensive record, conceding just 31 goals from 26 matches. Soto isn’t the only prolific scorer in the group, as Truman Gelnovatch nabbed 19 tallies for Kendall.
Predicted Winner: Vancouver Whitecaps
Sockers FC (16-1-8)
FC Golden State (22-7-7)
BW Gottschee (13-7-6)
Seattle Sounders FC (15-11-5)
Behind the second-best defensive mark in the age group, Sockers FC are definite favorites after losing just one game in the 2015-16 season. U.S. U17 MNT goalkeeper Alexander Budnik should be in goal to backstop the team’s air tight defense that features Erik Horvath, Zachary Klancnik and Jack Davis. Slowing down a very good FC Golden State in the final third will be a test for the rest of the group. Roberto Garcia Vargas and Kevin Cervantes have provided 25 of the team’s 70 goals, and they’ll look to keep that form going. Keeping opposing offenses quiet is something that BW Gottschee has done well, conceding less than a goal per game. Seattle’s opening round matchup against Sockers could prove critical as the MLS side seeks progress. Stanford recruit Kei Tomozawa must be able to stamp his authority on the midfield battle if the Sounders are to make noise.
Predicted Winner: Sockers FC
FC Dallas (23-2-0)
Capital Area Railhawks CASL (19-9-5)
Chicago Magic PSG (12-7-6)
DC United (12-9-5)
The search for a proverbial favorite for not only a Group C win but also a title triumph, the FC Dallas development machine is a good place to start. Home field advantage should work in FCD’s favor as it seeks to take care of business against Capital Area Railhawks, Chicago Magic and DC United. FCD boasts the nation’s top defensive mark in the country, conceding just 16 times in 25 games. Jesus Ferreira and his 20 goals are a team high, though it’s more about this team’s ability to control proceedings that makes it a dangerous package. Of course, Dallas can’t expect the opposition to step aside and let it waltz to the top of the group. United could offer up a surprise, especially if U.S. youth national team veteran Chandler Vaughn is included in the group. The defender could be key in shutting down opposition attacks. Railhawks and Magic both should be well-drilled and more than capable of pulling off an upset.
Predicted Winner: FC Dallas
Crew Soccer Academy-Wolves (17-5-3)
Montreal Impact FC (14-5-7)
Real So Cal (20-12-4)
Sacramento Republic FC (16-13-3)
Stop Farai Mutatu, and Group D opponents just might find a way to upset Crew Soccer Academy-Wolves and secure the top spot in the group. Mutatu’s 22 tallies led Wolves, which impressed on the way to a second-place finish in the Mid-America Division. Any team that emerges from the Southwest Division is notable, so there’s every reason to believe that Real So Cal could engineer a successful week in Frisco. Carson Vom Steeg anchors the team at the back along with Frederik Kleeman, while Jason Manning and Jake Kemhadjian offer attacking thrust. Sacramento and Montreal shouldn’t be slept on either, as they’ve put together solid runs throughout the regular season.
Predicted Winner: Real So Cal
New York Red Bulls (19-1-6)
Chicago Fire (16-6-3)
Strikers FC (19-10-7)
IMG Academy (15-12-5)
Considering this group boasts the No. 2 overall seed based on points per game, the New York Red Bulls are unsurprising favorites in Group E. Wake Forest recruit Omir Fernandez is the danger man for this New York squad, leading the team with 20 goals. Chicago offers plenty of defensive resistance to play their way into contention, however. Expect to see a big week from Fire goalkeeper Kyle Orciuch, who has made 14 appearances so far this season. Like the Red Bulls, the Strikers are able to put up numbers in front of goal, led by Thomas Williamson and Tyler Bagley each with 18 apiece. Nipping in at the final Wild Card spot, IMG Academy’s chances will take a significant step up if both Hanif Wright and Ben Lederman make the trip.
Predicted Winner: Strikers FC
Real Colorado (16-4-6)
San Jose Earthquakes (17-9-6)
Crew Soccer Academy (12-8-5)
Orlando City SC (15-12-5)
Two of these teams bring 20+ goal scorers to tussle in Texas, as Real Colorado brings Rhys De Sota and his 25 goals to Group F, while San Jose counters with Arda Bulut, who netted 24 this season. Whether or not Crew SC or Orlando can find a way to slow those two players down could end up dictating who finishes atop the group. Real Colorado could carry the edge into this one, having played in the same division as FC Dallas, arguably the best team in the age group, offering them the battle-tested experience that tips the balances in their favor.
Predicted Winner: Real Colorado
LA Galaxy (24-9-3)
New England Revolution (13-5-8)
Georgia United (18-12-3)
Sporting KC (12-9-5)
A trio of all-MLS teams, plus a soon-to-be MLS Academy makes this group an intriguing one from the perspective that all four look to be creating pro players. Does that mean they put the competitive element of this week aside and look to nurture their players in the results-based environment? It’s unlikely to be approached that way, and it should yield competitive matches. The Galaxy have to be favorites, as they’ve shown the ability to pour in goals, leading the nation with 101 as a team. Look for Carlos Anguiano to be at the heart of the positive for LA, as he spreads the ball around the field and seeks to create in the final third. There’s not a great margin of error for New England, which showcased a knack to win tight games, though scored less than half the number of goals than the Galaxy. Recent Appalachian State commit Cheick Fofana is the focal point for Georgia United, which likely will send U.S. U17 MNT stars Chris Goslin and Andrew Carleton to play up with the U18s. Fofana scored just under half his team’s goals, nabbing 22 this season, and can certainly provide the scoring needed to secure the upset. Sporting KC’s success through most of the season has come on the offensive side of the ball, and if they can find a way to tighten up against a pair of talented attacks, they could find themselves in with a shout.
Predicted Winner: LA Galaxy
Weston FC (22-4-6)
Oakwood Soccer Club (16-4-6)
Crossfire Premier (16-9-6)
Back-to-back losses to close the season pushed Weston FC down from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed. That’s not going to be a big deal, as Weston still holds the edge over the rest of the group on paper. George Acosta is the main focus, as the attacking midfielder has proven his worth with the U.S. U17 MNT of late. How Oakwood SC fares will reflect the quality of the Northeast Division, as the group winners don’t overwhelm statistically. Simon Becher tops the team in scoring, while Kendall Newman is critical in defense. Finishing the season winning four out of its last six, Crossfire Premier can’t be ruled out. Keep an eye on the defensive efforts of Ethan Bartlow and Hal Uderitz, with the latter thriving in his first year of DA soccer. Rounding out the quartet, if Pateadores can close things down defensively, it’ll bolster their chances. The SoCal side scored 75 goals during the season, but conceded 63.
Predicted Winner: Crossfire Premier