The US Youth Soccer Desert Conference held its second event of the 2020-21 season this past weekend, as 130 boys and girls teams in the 12U-19U age groups competed at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix.
While some of the younger age groups kicked off their season earlier in the fall, the weekend in Phoenix saw many teams in the 15U-19U age groups play the first games of their Desert Conference seasons. As one of 13 Conferences in the USYS National League, the Desert Conference provides teams with an opportunity to earn advancement to the USYS Far West Regional Championships, as well as the National League Playoffs.
The meaningful games and high-level competition provides the players with an opportunity to play in an environment that is similar to what they may see in the future at the college or professional levels.
“Coaches are always looking for games that are competitive,” said Paul Barron, CCV Stars 05 Girls (AZ) coach. “They want to see teams and players competing in competitive games, and these are competitive games. They see players competing at a high level, and they see what they can do on the field.”
The 16U Girls age group is shaping up to be a close race for the title, as six of the eight teams secured at least one win in Phoenix. Broomfield Blast SC 05 Girls Prestige (CO) is currently in first place after using a potent offensive attack to earn two wins and a draw from its three games. Broomfield owns a one-point lead over Avalanche 05 Black DW (UT), which played just two games but earned all six possible points —making it the only side in the age group to win each of its games in Phoenix.
Each of the teams in the 16U Girls age group are trying to overtake Rio Rapids 05 Girls (NM), which won the Desert Conference title last season by going 6-1-0. After a loss to Avalanche to start the weekend, Rio Rapids bounced back with a win as it looks to defend its title.
“There’s a lot of pride on the line,” said Jordan Candelaria, a member of Rio Rapids 05. “Being the first team from New Mexico to win the Desert Conference, we are trying to show that we can do it again.”
The weekend in Phoenix also featured several Desert Conference teams who have earned a chance to compete in the National League Playoffs this season for an opportunity to qualify for the 2021 USYS National Championships.
By playing against some of the best teams from the states represented in the Desert Conference, the Phoenix event provided the teams with a good test ahead of the National League Playoffs.
“Competing against high-level teams is going to bring good coaches and good colleges to watch,” said Alan Miranda, a player for 03 RSL Southern AZ Boys Haouala (AZ), of his team’s chance to play in the Playoffs in March. “That’s where we want to be — competing against the top-level teams to show what we’ve got.”
RSL Southern AZ looked to be in form in Phoenix, as it won all three of its games in the 18U Boys age group — scoring 10 goals while conceding none. However, it currently sits in second place after LVSA 03 Boys Silver (NV) earned a narrow edge in goal differential by going 3-0-0 and outscoring its opponents 11-to-0.
A look at the current division leaders in the Desert Conference…
12U – USA 09B DC (UT)
12U – Players 09 Elite (NV)
The next Desert Conference event is scheduled to take place Feb. 26-28, 2021, in Las Vegas.
For more information on the Desert Conference, including schedules, scores, and standings, click here. For more information on all of the National League Conferences, the National League Showcase Series, and the National League Playoffs, click here.