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ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 27, 2012)
– The 2012-2013 US Youth Soccer National League
Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Boys resumed league play at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., today alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase. Each age group is represented by four of the eight teams per division, and this weekend of play will finalize league standings until the remaining four teams per division compete in Las Vegas, Nev., March 15-17.
The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels. In addition to recruiting opportunities, the top two finishers from each division (Blue and Red) will earn a ticket to the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships
, making each match valuable to the team's fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
That competitive environment was more than evident in the Under-15 Boys group, as they concluded the first day of play in Orlando with four action packed games. Headlining the group was 2012 National Finalist Sunrise Elite 97/98 (FL), who became the first team to punch a ticket to next summers National Championships after beating Tennessee SC 16 (TN) 2-1 on goals from Donald Emerson, now tied for second in scoring, and Frederick Gil to move to 5-0-0 on the season and clinch at least a second place finish in the Blue Division. CUP Crew Jrs. 97 (OH-S) and Concorde Fire Elite (GA) played to a 1-1 draw as CUP sits in second place and Concorde in third. CUP still control their own destiny as two victories in their last two games will guarantee them a top-two spot in the division.
“We’re so hungry to go back,” said Sunrise Elite Head Coach Jorge Alvarez. “We want to be National League and National Champions. We’ve won a lot of tournaments, but we wanted to get back to the National Championships. Last year, it was very disappointing to lose in penalty kicks, but we’re hungry now and we’re ready to go back.”
After winning all three preliminary games and then losing in the National Championship in penalty kicks last summer, Sunrise has won all five games so far in their first National League season and earned four of those victories by a single goal to secure their return to Nationals.
“We’ve had tough games in the National League; very physical, very fast. It’s a great experience. I think there are a lot of good players and tough competition. It’s just what we were looking for.”
Defending Region I Champion Bethesda SC Lions (MD) scored a stoppage time goal to defeat Pinecrest Premier 97/98 Blue (FL) 2-1 and stay atop the U-15 Red Division in their quest to return to the National Championships. Battling for the second spot, Penn Fusion 97 (E-PA) and GSA 98 Phoenix Red (GA) played an epic game with five lead changes that ended with a stoppage time goal to give Penn Fusion a 6-5 win. Cody Wax and Christopher Schlegel each scored twice in the game for Penn Fusion, leaving Wax atop the scoring charts and Schlegel tied for second best.
Under-17 OBGC Rangers (MD) need at least one point from their next two games to lock up their first trip to the National Championships after twice coming up a point short in National League and falling in the Region I Championship final and semifinal the past two years. In what has been their trend this season, OBGC ran off four second half goals after leading National Championship Finalist CESA 95 Premier (SC) 1-0 at halftime, to win 5-1. In the five games OBGC has played this season, they have led each game 1-0 at halftime and scored 11 of their 16 goals in the second half. OBGC looks poised to break their own record of goals scored
in a National League season with 22 last year, and are also third on the list with 19 goals in 10-11. With two goals today, Jeremy Ebobisse took over as the top scorer in the group with six goals this season. Ebobisse has claimed National League top scorer honors in each of the last two years with seven and eight respectively.
Under-17 defending Region I Champion Lehigh Valley United 95 (E-PA) and CESA can also lock up a trip to Nationals this weekend with the right results, as can CUP Crew Jrs 95 Gold (OH-S) in the Blue Division.
Concorde Fire Elite (GA), defending National Champion Galaxy SC 94/95 Blue (IL) and FC Frederick 94 (MD) occupy the top three spots of the Under-18 Blue Division, and at least one is assured a ticket to Nationals after this weekend.
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). National League teams are among the best in the country and each team has had to earn 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.
National League action continues Friday, Dec. 28, at ESPN Wide World of Sports with games at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Complete standings, scores and schedules, including goal scorers and match information, can be found at the results page here
. Click on the score of each game for more information.