With this much talent arrayed across its ranks, it’s no wonder Santa Barbara SC is creating an NPL niche a mile wide this season.
It’s no secret that the U.S. Soccer Development Academy tends to hoover up the lion’s share of the country’s best players, but that doesn’t mean talent doesn’t settle elsewhere in power-packed pockets. US Club Soccer’s NPL has become a repository for some of these talent bubbles, and a relatively new one has sprung up in the Pacific Developmental NPL. The SoCal league is not even two years old, but it’s beginning to cull a selection of talented players from the area’s mega-rich pool of talent.
Within that league, the Santa Barbara SC boys program has collected a handful of the nation’s rising talent, and the program’s U18 commits list is proof positive of its ascension. Abu Danladi is the gem of the crew after committing to UCLA last month, while teammates Robbie Landeros and Agustin Andrade are both headed off to Seattle University. On the girls side, rangy keeper Hannah Harrah will stalk off to Loyola Marymount in the fall.
The pipeline is still open. Danladi is a Right to Dream player, and junior teammate Jeff Acheampong, another Right to Dream player from Ghana, seems similarly loaded down with promise. This much talent outside the DA? Believe it.
South Atlantic Premier League (U13-U15) home to dominance
There are precious few times you can predict a team’s entrance into the NPL Finals months out from the event. With so many factors at play, it’s a dangerous proposition.
But you might as well pencil in the Charlotte United U15 boys. Through five gives so far this season, United has a perfect rate of return on its matches, and the team has outscored its opponents and incredible 26-1, one of the best records in the entire NPL in that window of games. The schedule stretches until May, but the league’s U15 chasers will have a hard time catching up.
Meanwhile, the United U15 girls side is a similarly dominant situation. They’re undefeated through three matches and seem poised for a hearty playoff run. The lower divisions are similarly divided. On the U14 level, FC Alliance girls are 5-0-0 (21 GF, 1 GA), while the Lake Norman boys are 4-0-1. On the youngest U13 plateau, both the Triangle United and United Futbol Academy boys are 5-0-0 with extravagant results, while the Charlotte United girls are 5-0-0.
The best playoff race should be that U13 boys battle between unbeatens Triangle United and United Futbol Academy. There isn’t a meeting between the two on the schedule, but they could battle in an epic playoff contest.
Rocky Mountain jumble
Unarguably the most expansive NPL model in the country day spreads across the Rocky Mountains. the Mountain Developmental League encompasses U13-U18 age groups and skewers Las Vegas, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, with each state getting its own league in each age group except for Arizona and New Mexico, which are joined into one.
While all have virtues of their own, Colorado’s leagues consistently produce the highest level of play, and the league’s parity across all of its age groups speaks for itself. Colorado Rush (U13, U14) FC Boulder (U15), Colorado Storm (U16) and Pride Soccer (U17) each lead their respective groups through early march.
While the Colorado Rush program is perhaps most famous for its competitive and talent-rich ECNL sides, keep an eye on the boys program in the coming years. Its U13 and U14 teams went a combined 7-0-2 from December through March 2 with a combined 29-6 goal differential.
Midwest Development League houses powerhouse girls programs
Travel to any ECNL showcase event and names like Sporting Blue Valley, Michigan Hawks and St. Louis Scott Gallagher aren’t far behind. As three of the best girls club programs in the nation, those three in particular represent a backbone of the ECNL and one of the most fertile areas of the country for girls development.
The NPL gets to partake in some of the fun. While those three put teams in the ECNL, they also compete in the Midwest Developmental League, and the residual talent carryover is evident. St. Louis Scott Gallagher-MO leads the U16 division with a dazzling 5-0-0 record with just one goal conceded. The Hawks of course are as developmentally sound as any, leading the U13 division with a 7-0-0 mark, while Nebraska program Omaha Elite broke some of the dominance with a U14-leading 19 points from seven games.
Additionally, Omaha Elite has cemented itself as one of the area’s best despite only being founded in 2011. The program’s U17 team is 7-0-0 with a league-best 38 goals to just three against. The commits list for the team is a who’s who of talent: players like Madeline Wright (Texas Tech), Faith Carter (TCU), Susie Dineen (Mississippi) and Amanda McClanahan (Tennessee). Goes to show that in the MDL, the depth is as wide as the midwest.