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National League Boys resume play Feb. 18-20 in Weston, Fla.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Dec. 11, 2011) –
After four days of play, the US Youth Soccer National League
Under-15, 16, 17 and 18 Boys have solidified their spots in the standings until they meet again Feb. 18-20 in Weston, Fla., where they will continue competing for a ticket to the 2012 US Youth Soccer National Championships
in Rock Hill, S.C., July 24-29.
The National League brings together some of the best teams in the country, all of which have had to earn their place in the league through success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competition. Demonstrating the competitive level of the league, just two of the 60 teams who competed in the first weekend of boys play escaped with a perfect record; U-18 Grand Rapids Crew Juniors (MI), the defending National Champions, and U-17 Eastside FC 94 Red (WA), the defending Region IV Champions. Sunday also showed how tough it is to finish atop the standings in the National League, as four of the five returning division champs were dealt losses on the final day of the week.
"These are some of the best teams in the country, that's why we come here. We come all the way from Arizona to Birmingham, Ala., and we wouldn't make the trip if the competition wasn't going to be the top level. That's what we look for and that's what we're getting. Everyone has to qualify, whether it's through your Regional League, the National Championship Series or last year's National League. It's a proving ground for us to showcase ourselves and you know you belong here and so do the other teams," said Adam Burke, coach of the U-16 Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks (AZ), who finished third in last year's National League division after the outcome came down to the last day of league play.
"It's the competition. It's the level of players that are here and we get pushed every day, and you get things here you can't get other places."
Cincinnati United Premier (CUP) Crew Juniors qualified three boys teams into this year's National League. Under-16 coach Terry Nicholl describes why competing in the league is so valuable to his club.
"I love this league. We're sure to see unbelievable opponents who are going to be quick, fast, can play and are tough. So we absolutely love this league."
"There's no luck involved in being here, it's real devotion to the game. I treat my lads like young professionals and that's the way they play. The only way to get in here is when you've earned it, it's really top notch (competition). We know the (U.S. Soccer Development) Academy has some strong teams, but if your team isn't in the Academy, you need to be here playing in this league."
"These players out here are all very, very serious soccer players. These are players who want to go on and play in college, and so if you want to go on and play in college, this is the league you need to be playing in. National League is the number one focus for our teams now."
The opportunity to face proven teams each and every game is what sets the National League apart from other competitions, but it's the ambition of the players that drives teams to want to qualify for the league.
"We have a few kids who have been involved in professional youth clubs overseas, one of which with Brondby FC in Denmark, and we also have another who's trained with Bordeaux (France), Freiberg (Germany) and a couple other guys in France as well. So for them, this is a real fertile ground for developing attributes so that they can go play professionally, and all of these guys would like to go play in college as well, so the competition and playing against different styles of play from around the country is another very important aspect of this," said Brett Colton, coach of U-17 AC Bethesda (MD), who is back competing in the National League for the second straight season.
National League teams are club soccer teams with an individual proven track record of success, regardless of hometown or club affiliation. Close to 300 collegiate, professional and National Team coaches attended this weekend's National League games to scout some of the top teams and players in the country, citing the competitive level of each game as every team has to earn their spot in the competition.
The first place team from each division (blue and red) in the U-15, 16 and 17 age groups will earn a ticket to the 2012 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 a National Championship.
Some highlights from today's matches…
Under-15 Albion SC White (CA-S) had a chance to take hold of the top spot in the division if they could knock off GSA Phoenix 97 Red (GA) on the last day of the weekend, but GSA notched their first victory instead, 1-0. Jonathan Borja's goal seven minutes into the second half was enough to secure the victory and give GSA a boost in the standings headed into the break.
CUP Crew Jrs. Gold 96/97 (OH-S) missed a chance to head into the break with sole possession of first place in the division, but they still hold a share of the lead after a 1-1 draw with Lehigh Valley United 96 (E-PA). Jurgenandre Vargasnieri put LVU in front just before halftime, but U-15 scoring leader Luke Treadway extended his goal total with the equalizer just nine minutes before the final whistle to save a point for CUP and keep them unbeaten.
OBGC Rangers (MD) and Scottsdale 96 Blackhawks (AZ) finished second and third in last year's U-15 National League Blue standings, with Rangers winning head to head on this same day last year. But Blackhawks took advantage of a banged up Rangers team to get revenge with a 5-0 victory today. Region IV ODP member Sam Gleadle started and finished the scoring with goals in the 4th and 62nd, while Arizona ODP player Grant Galan tallied in the 14th and Alexis De La Rosa grabbed a brace himself. The win propelled Scottsdale ahead of Rangers into to first place after the weekend.
Both Concorde Fire Elite (GA) and Discoveries SC 95 Green (SC) were fighting for their first victory of the weekend on the final day. After a scoreless first half, Concorde netted two goals in 10 minutes to move to 1-2-1. Georgia ODP player Jack Gayton struck first for Concorde two minutes after the restart and Robert Cutchin followed up in the 52nd to seal the game and the win.
Region II finalist CUP Crew Juniors Gold (OH-S) came back from a goal down to tie 1-1 with AC Bethesda (MD). Region I ODP member Ngeindaloh Smith put Bethesda in front just four minutes in, but David Janusz pulled things even two minutes after halftime.
FC Frederick 94 (MD) stayed in contention for the U-17 Red title with a 2-0 victory over defending National Champion Concorde Fire Elite (GA). Region I ODP player Jackson Eskay scored his league best sixth goal of the weekend a minute after the restart and Nate Eiben secured the win with a 66th minute goal.