The newest ECNL players are on the cusp of the end of their season, with 16 teams heading to Seattle to duke it out for a national title.
Below is a group-by-group preview of each group heading to the Pacific Northwest to compete for a championship starting on Thursday, June 25.
Group A (Conference Record)
Bethesda SC (14-0-1)
Solar Chelsea (16-2-0)
Slammers FC (18-2-2)
Sporting Blue Valley (8-5-3)
A tough group is headlined by the top overall U14 seed, Bethesda SC. The Maryland side is dynamic and features plenty of depth, including youth national team players Maliah Morris, MaKenna Morris and Jane Olcott. The stats are impressive: 45 goals scored and only 12 conceded in 15 games.
Of course, a trio of tough teams awaits Bethesda in Seattle. Solar Chelsea is a tested team from Texas that features one of the top U14 scores in the country in Sydney Nobels, who scored 16 times this season. Solar Chelsea only conceded six goals in 18 conference games, with goalkeeper Tatum Sutherland and defenders Serena Eboh and Rylee Hanaa amongst the key contributors.
The balanced and efficient Slammers FC represents California in this group. Offensive output has been a critical element to its success, with a whopping 89 goals scored on the year from just 22 contests, an average of four per game.
Checking in at third place in the Midwest Conference, Sporting Blue Valley. Team chemistry played a key role in helping the side overcome an 0-2 start to the season and clinch a spot in the finals. They’ll be a sleeper team to watch, including talented players like forward/defender Maycee Bell, a U16 national team veteran, midfielders Caroline Peterson and Felicia Knox, and dynamic attacker Lainey Thompson.
San Diego Surf (20-0-2)
FC Stars of Massachusetts (18-0-4)
St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri (10-3-3)
Crossfire Premier (7-2-5)
Unbeaten in its 22 conference games this season, San Diego Surf certainly enters as one of the U14 contenders in Seattle. The team knows how to find the back of the net as evidenced by its 69 goals for, but perhaps more impressive is the eight goals conceded. Mia Fishel and Brooke Wilson top the team's scoring charts, while goalkeepers MacKenna Carmichael and Elyse Waterhouse have split time in goal.
The cream of the New England Division crop, FC Stars of Massachusetts is a quality club that consistently churns out competitive, talented sides. This team is no different, despite starting the season with a number of new faces, eventually embracing the high demands and letting its work rate and system lead to creating scoring opportunities. Alexis Rothman, Peyton Linnehan, Micheala Agresti and Alex Pannagio are just a few of the players who have contributed to the team’s success.
Defense helped propel St. Louis Scott Gallagher to Seattle, conceding just nine goals from the team’s 16 games. It’s a formula that has thrived with a tight-knit willing to work for one another on the field, and one that they will take with them to the Pacific Northwest.
Crossfire Premier has the chance to compete for a championship close to home after punching their ticket. Unbeaten from its final five games of the year, one of the keys to reaching this point of the season has been finding the right attacking balance. Captains Lauren Jensen and Mackenzie Floyd help lock down the middle of the field, while attacking midfielder and U.S. U14 GNT veteran Sakura Yoshida looks to create opportunities.
San Juan SC (13-1-0)
Gwinnett Soccer Association (18-1-5)
Dallas Texans (13-4-1)
World Class FC (14-6-2)
Another gaudy goal differential in Seattle belongs to San Juan SC, scoring 46 goals and conceding just seven on the season. Continuing to follow formula of success is obviously central to any success the Cali side will have up in Seattle.
Five players on Gwinnett Soccer Association scored at least seven goals or more on the season, including Lillian Babalola, Macy Douglas, Juveina Hylton, Kristi Jones and Ciara Whitely. Spreading the wealth has propelled them to this point, and if the Georgia side is to continue to win, that will be a big reason.
A club with a history of excellence, expectations are high for any Dallas Texans team at a national finals. This U14 team has made major strides since coming together last summer, improving in all facets of the game. The team hasn’t lost in 2015 (playing just three games, with the bulk of its schedule in last fall) and will look to keep rolling in Seattle.
The Metro Division’s first place side, World Class FC got the job done, winning its division by eight points. The New Jersey side demonstrated its ability to hang on to wins in close games, something that they’ll have to do in Seattle to advance.
The fourth seeded Hawks tied for the fewest total goals conceded in U14 play with just five allowed in 16 games. They got the job done at both ends of the field, as double digit goal scorers Ashley Armstrong, Kaya Frazier and Samantha Sklarski gave the opposition fits in the final third.
A winner of nine straight games in a row – including five in the month of May – CASL Chelsea has enjoyed its share of success on the run to Seattle. Haleigh Stackpole’s 15 goals in 17 games tops the team in scoring, while Hannah Arostegui and Mattie Murphy have notched a number of assists to lead a well-balanced attack that will look to succeed in Seattle.
The inclusion of the Rush in this group could make it the most difficult in the quartet of the U14 finals. A deep team that features 13 different goal scorers, Audrey Weiss’ 19 goals in 19 games makes her one of the players to watch.
Riding a six-game unbeaten streak into Seattle, the So Cal Blues finished third behind the San Diego Surf and Slammers FC in the demanding Southwest Conference. That experience is sure to help a team that has shown its ability to defend well as a group and helped by the individual prowess of Paige Metayar, Analisa Gjonovich, Payton Walker and Ali Palangi.