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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Dec. 8, 2011) – Elite youth teams from across the country in the Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Boys age groups kicked off US Youth Soccer National League play at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex, Sports Blast and Heardmont Park in Birmingham, Ala. today.
Games are being played in conjunction with the NCAA Men's Division I College Cup, creating another significant opportunity for the nation's collegiate, professional and national team coaches to see National League players in an environment of meaningful play.
National League teams are club soccer teams with an individual proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions and are among the nation's best. Nearly 300 collegiate coaches are expected to attend this weekend 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, regardless of hometown or club affiliation.
"We're excited to be back, it's a good league. All of the teams that are here are quality teams," Said Clint Craft, Head Coach for the U-18 Dallas Texans Red Dallas. "Playing against the best kids in the country is going to make you better and the (U.S. Soccer) Development Academy is the top of the top, but this is the same level as the Academy, it's just some teams aren't part of academy clubs."
The 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). 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, National League teams compete for the league division title for a slot in the annual US Youth Soccer National Championships.
Some highlights from today's matches…
Possibly the most entertaining game of the day was featured in the U-18 group as a wild, back and forth, last minute game saw defending division champion Tulsa SCH 94 Earle (OK) come out on top 4-3 over Texas FC 94 (N-TX). Tulsa went ahead in the 40th
on Emmanuel Raranje's goal, only to have Jordan Stiner level a minute later. Texas FC grabbed the lead in the 60th
from Michael Matthews, but Tulsa University commit Christian Mata equalized in the 77th
. Matthews again gave Texas the lead, and seemingly the victory, with an 89th
minute goal, but Memphis commit Jordan Cuckler evened the score in the 90th
before Mata netted an improbable winner in stoppage time to put Tulsa back on track for another league title.
Two returning teams met up with 10-11 division runner-up Javanon 94 (KY) drawing 1-1 with defending National League division champion Dallas Texans Red Dallas (N-TX). Alberto Medrano put Texans in the lead in the 59th minute, but Lindo Mfecka, a U-17 South African National Team player, grabbed the equalizer seven minutes later.
Lou Fusz SC Gold (MO) is back and looking for a league championship with a 3-1 win over newcomer Jacksonville United (FL). Jacksonville took the lead in just the 5th minute from Kacper Grzeszczak, but Robert Adams scored twice in seven minutes to give Lou Fusz a halftime lead, and Sean Badock added an insurance goal in the 37th.
Under-17 Eastside FC 94 Red (WA), the defending Region IV champion, got the better of returning National League competitor Raiders FC (IL) 3-0 to start the season. Olympic Development Program player and National Championships Best 11 selection Jordan Morris notched a hatrick to get Eastside back on track for a championships berth this season in the win.
Newcomer FC Frederick 94 (MD) shot out of the gates to start the season with a 5-0 victory over 94 HFC Red (NC). Region I ODP player Jackson Eskay got things rolling with goals in the 8th and 17th minutes before Paul Windsor gave FCF a three goal halftime lead with a 31st minute strike. Drew Demich added another in the 66th and Windsor grabbed his double in the 87th to cap the game.
The Under-16 Boys season started with a rematch pitting two teams who faced off in the same division last year. Region I champion SDFC 09 Gauchos (NJ) and Classics Eagles Red (OH-S) drew 1-1 last year, and the result wasn't much different this year as the two played to a 0-0 stalemate to begin the season.
In another divisional rematch from the previous season, defending National League division champ and National Championship runner-up Michigan Jaguars 96 Green defeated Lehigh Valley United 95 (E-PA) 3-1 to begin their trek back to the National Championships. Jordon Ellison gave LVU the early advantage with an 11th minute goal, but Jason Carmack leveled in the 25th for the Jags. Ken Krolicki lead Michigan to victory with a second half double to grab the early lead in the standings.
National League action continues Friday, Dec. 9 at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex, Sports Blast and Heardmont Park. For complete standings, scores and schedules, click here
or go to /National_League/