The sixth season of US Youth Soccer National League
play got underway Nov. 15 when all 64 boys teams convened in Wilson, N.C. After a break for the holidays, it’s the girls’ turn as the 64 teams in the Under-15 through Under-18 age groups also meet in Wilson to begin their season.
The 2011-2012 season saw league standards raised
to new heights with numerous standout performances. Kings Hammer Academy (OH-S) became the second girls team, and just fourth overall, to finish the season with a perfect 7-0 record. Kings also tied the league record for least goals allowed in a season, conceding just once. FC Pennsylvania Strikers (E-PA) also matched Kings’ mark with one goal allowed on their way to the Under-18 title, while Toro Bravo (NE) and NSA Premier Fury (IL) allowed just two. Savannah Trujillo of KCFC Futura Academy (MO) moved into second on the season goal scoring charts after notching eight goals last season and Emily Ogle of Internationals SC (OH-N) moved into third with seven. However, all scorers are chasing the record holder, Lauren Berman of Scorpions Elite (MA), who struck 13 times in 2009-2010.
Perhaps the most intriguing mark set in 2011-2012 however was Legends FC, which placed four teams in the league last season, each claiming their division title. After clinching one championship with a game to play, three Legends teams took care of business on the final day of the season to lock up first place.
"It was a great feeling," said Legends FC Director of Coaching Josh Hodges. "It worked out that one team actually won it the day before officially, and then the U-16’s won in the morning and the U-17’s won at 10:00 and then we won another. So it was a good feeling to win back-to-back-to-back. I think we have great kids and great families, so I’m glad they’re experiencing some success because they’re certainly putting in the work to give themselves that opportunity.
"The competition is great. I think last year, National League for us was a couple of things. It was an opportunity for our kids to be seen by college coaches and be evaluated, and it was a good chance to play teams around the country, which is always great. There’s a lot of good competition in Southern California but you end up playing them all the time, so it’s good to play games outside of our area against different styles. Obviously, the ultimate goal was to give ourselves an opportunity to compete in the National Championships and we were fortunate to get four teams there."
In just one year, Legends became just the second girls club to ever win more than one National League title. The Dallas Texans hold the most girls’ championships with five, but only two of those titles came in the same year and that was the only other time one club has captured multiple titles in one year. Expectations will be high for the club, as they have advanced a team into the league in every age group this season, but the odds will be stacked against them to repeat such dominance.
"This year we have the U-15’s, 16’s, 17’s and 18’s and ultimately we have high expectations," said Hodges. "We want to be just as successful as we were last year. I think the teams are prepared. We’re going to make sure we’re coming in fresh and ready to compete. Our expectations are certainly high, we put a lot of time and energy into National League."
National League girls teams claimed three of four possible National Championships in 11-12 and 14 national qualifiers are among the field in this year’s National League. The league gained two addition spots per age group to the National Championships, meaning four National League representatives will join the four Regional Champions in Overland Park, Kan. July 22-28 at the National Championships. Winning 20 of a possible 30 National Championships through the first five seasons, National League teams enter the season knowing it could be the beginning of a run to the National title.
In 11-12, all 16 divisions in the eight Boys and Girls age groups had to wait until the final weekend in Las Vegas to determine a champion. With each and every team earning their place in the league based on proven success in US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues and National Championship Series, teams are put to the test in every game. Only those that can consistently perform at the highest level earn the right to move on to compete for the National Championship.
"We compete in State Cup, Regional League and other competitions, but I think National League just gives you that final opportunity to compete at the highest level. I think it gives us something to build for, something to train for above and beyond all the other things that we do. I think it gives the kids a little bit of a reward for the hard work they’ve been putting in, it gives them a chance to be successful and go on to National Championships. Player development-wise, it gives us a great platform for our players to compete and be seen at the highest level.
"All of the teams in National League are high quality. We’re not looking out for any teams, we’re more excited to play all of them."