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The Under-17 Boys teams in Orlando took care of business, sealing up three of the four bids to Nationals, but the story in this age group is the changing of the guard. Of last year’s National League champs and National Championship finalists, at least three will have to return to Nationals through cup play. Defending National Champion Michigan Jaguars and last season's National League Blue champ, Scottsdale Blackhawks, can move into a top-two spot, but at least one will be left out. National Finalist CESA Premier (SC) and National League Red champ GSA Phoenix (GA) will finish outside of the top two.
OBGC Rangers (MD) have long been considered one of the top teams in the country, but will finally make their first trip to Nationals, claiming the Red Division title after finishing one point out in each of the last two years. OBGC’s offense has been a staple of the team, as they’ve put in the best scoring output in league history two years in a row with 22 goals scored, but they allowed just 7 goals this season, a team-best in National League which looks to be the difference. Forward Jeremy Ebobisse could finish on top of the scoring charts for the third year in a row with his seven this season, whereas last year’s second leading scorer, Indiana commit Sean Cowdrey, dropped into midfield throughout the season. Playmaker Jorge Quintanilla pulled the strings for OBGC in midfield, but stepped up with two huge late goals to lead OBGC over Region I rival Lehigh Valley United (E-PA) in the final game of the season to deliver the division crown.
Despite the loss on the final day in Orlando, Lehigh Valley will make their third trip to Nationals as a top-two finisher. Last summer, Lehigh gave up two second half goals in their final preliminary match to miss out on the National Championship final. Jordon Ellison led LVU with four goals on the season.
CUP Crew Juniors (OH-S) made huge strides to lock up a top-two finish in the Blue Division after finishing fifth and sixth the past two years respectively. The key to CUP’s success has been a team effort. Despite scoring 16 times this season, no player scored more than three goals.
All four competitors in Vegas are hoping to catch second place Concorde Fire Elite (GA) in the Blue Division, who are sitting on 10 points. West Coast FC (CA-S) and Scottsdale Blackhawks have the best chance to leap Concorde as both are just one point back, but Scottsdale is the only one that can overtake CUP at the top with all three victories, as CUP holds the tiebreaker on West Coast.
Michigan Jaguars and SDFC Gauchos (NJ) can also move into second place, but will need near perfect results and other games to go their way.
- 2012 US Youth Soccer ODP Boys NCAA Interregional All-Stars:
James Hague – Michigan Jaguars
- West Coast FC’s Chad Hill claimed the 2013 US Youth Soccer ODP ’96 National Championship playing for Cal South ODP. Cal South defeated Eastern Pennsylvania in the final, which featured Lehigh Valley’s Matthew Barile, Patrick Berneski, Wyatt Fabian, Sam Freehrer, Colton Habecker and Shaun Quinn.
- Gideon Zelalem, midfielder for OBGC Rangers the past two National League seasons, left the team to join the real Arsenal FC youth program in England after last summer's Region I Championships. Zelalem has been practicing with the English Premiership side's first team on several occasions. [link]