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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 11, 2016) — The US Youth Soccer National League Under-14, Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Boys resumed league play Friday at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the 2016 Players College Showcase. All Under-14 squads are competing this weekend, while half of the field is represented in the Under-15 through Under-18 age groups.
When the National League Boys’ standings are finalized on Sunday, March 13, the top two finishers from each age group division will earn a spot in the 2016 US Youth Soccer National Championships, and the top finishers in the Under-14, Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 age groups will secure their place in the league next season. All teams were focused when they kicked off their weekend in Las Vegas on Friday, as many entered play with division titles and berths to the National Championships on the line.
Five more teams secured top-two finishes and the accompanying berth to Nationals on Friday, but just Under-15 CFA Raiders (IL) managed to clinch a division title on the first day of play in Las Vegas — leaving seven division titles to be decided over the weekend.
One of the teams hoping to capture a division crown is Under-17 Sporting St. Croix, which accomplished one goal on Friday by clinching at least a second-place finish thanks to a win over Albion SC White (CA-S). St. Croix coach Tony Englund said the National League competition is similar to what his team will face at the National Championships, and each game in the league is key to helping his side improve.
“Playing in the National League and playing the National tournament is definitely comparable. You see a lot of the same teams,” Englund said. “Albion, today, is a team that comes out and comes at you. The teams we’re playing the rest of the weekend are terrific technical teams, as well, with a lot of athleticism. This is why you sign up for this — the opportunity to play different teams who really stretch you and make you play better every time you step on the field.”
Not only are players competing for a spot in the National Championships, they’re playing in hopes of earning a spot on a roster at the next level. With many college coaches along the sidelines in Las Vegas, Englund said it offers another chance for teams to get exposure that isn’t available at many other places.
“In Minnesota, we don’t have Division I or Division II men’s soccer available. So a lot of our guys, who are certainly at the caliber to play at that level, are not going to get the looks unless you get in a league like this,” Englund said. “Again, full credit to the boys. If they come out and play in this environment and equip themselves well, which they have, it turns a lot more heads. And we’re hearing that from college coaches.”
2016 US Youth Soccer National Championship Qualifiers via the National League
Blue: Baltimore Darby 01/02 (MD)*
Red: Valparaiso United Futbol 02 JG (AZ)*
Blue: United FA 01 Premier (GA)
Red Champions: CFA Raiders (IL)*
Red: Dix Hills Hurricanes (NY-E)
Blue: Baltimore Celtic 98/99 (MD)
Blue: Sporting St. Croix (MN)*
Red Champion: Solar Chelsea Red 99 (TX-N)
Red Runner-up: Loudoun 98 Red (VA)
Blue Champion: Lehigh Valley United 97 (PA-E)
Blue Runner-up: Arlington Impact Red (VA)*
National League Boys action continues Saturday, March 12 at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex with games at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. PT.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Champions League, Midwest Regional League, Southern Regional 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.
National League teams earn their place in the league based on a proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions and are among the nation's best. Competing for a league title and a spot in the US Youth Soccer National Championships, each and every game will play into who represents the National League this summer in Frisco, Texas.
The National League’s alumni have gone on to prove themselves at the collegiate and professional levels, with former players competing in NCAA Division I, II and III, Major League Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League, English Premier League, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The top pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft (Jack Harrison) and the 2016 NWSL Draft (Emily Sonnett) are both former National League players.
Some highlights from Friday’s matches…
In the Under-14 Red Division, Valparaiso United Futbol 02 JG (AZ) punched its ticket to Nationals by securing a top-two finish with a 3-0 win over Concorde Fire Central Elite (GA). In the matchup of 4-0 teams, Valparaiso took control of the game early when Jarod Eaton netted a 20th-mintue goal. That was a sign of things to come, as Eaton doubled his team’s advantage in the 49th minute. Soon after, Denis Conteh cut into the box and found Eaton, who finished to record his hat trick and cap the Arizona side’s 3-0 victory.
In the Under-14 Blue Division, Baltimore Darby 01/02 (MD) secured a top-two finish with a win on Friday, and it has a chance to claim the division drown on Saturday. South Carolina United FC 01 Elite (SC) and Fullerton Rangers 01 White (CA-S) also meet on Saturday in a game that will have big implications on the top of the group standings.
CFA Raiders (IL) secured the Under-15 Red Division title with a 4-0 victory against Sparta 01 JK (UT). Christian Crespo and Evangelo Spartiatis each found the back of the net in the first half to give CFA a 2-0 lead at halftime. Salvador Valencia added to the advantage when he slid his 50th-minute attempt inside the right post, and Crespo capped the shutout victory by adding his second goal of the game later in the half. Along with the division title, the win also means the Raiders have earned their way to the National Championships in Frisco, Texas.
CUP Gold 00/01 (OH-S) kept itself in contention for the Under-15 Blue Division title with a draw on Friday. However, the Ohio South side must now win its final two games in order to win the division — or even finish in the top two.
Dallas Texans 00 Red (TX-N) picked up a key three points in the Under-16 Red Division standings with a 2-1 come-from-behind win against Sereno West 00 Chelsea (AZ). Sereno looked dangerous for large portions of the first half and grabbed a 29th-minute lead on Liban Sanchez’s low blast from the left side of the box. The Texans responded quickly after halftime, as George Ackling netted a 46th-minute equalizer. Just two minutes later, Wyatt Priest found the back of the net to put Dallas up, 2-1. The Texas side held on that advantage to remain in contention for the Red Division title.
A tie helped La Roca South CS 99/00 Premier (UT) move to the top of the Under-16 Blue Division, but it still has some work to do in order to secure a top-two finish. Fewster FC (MD) picked up a big win over Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) to get back in the hunt, and both the Maryland and Cal South sides are in position to potentially make a run at the division title.
A 4-1 win over Albion SC White (CA-S) helped Sporting St. Croix (MN) secure a berth to Nationals and stay in contention for the Under-17 Blue Division title. Albion sustained early pressure and forced the St. Croix keeper to make a diving save before eventually breaking through in the 33rd minute when Luis Jay Baltazar hit home a low cross from Brenner Jarrad. The Minnesota side’s Ataniel Claremond scored an important equalizer just before halftime to give St. Croix some confidence entering the second half. Claremond built on that momentum with a goal immediately after the break, and he added a third in the 57th minute to push the St. Croix advantage to 3-1. Gladimyr Jeudi added an insurance goal to cap the Minnesota side’s 4-1 victory that secured a top-two finish in the division.
Solar Chelsea Red 99 (TX-N) wrapped up the Under-17 Red Division title in Orlando, where Loudoun 98 Red (VA) also secured a second-place finish.
In the Under-18 Blue Division, Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) ended the top-two hopes of Ohio Premier Green (OH-S) with a 5-1 victory on Friday. Fullerton’s Michael Day netted the lone goal of the first half before Jalani Ambrose doubled the advantage with a rocket into the upper-90 from 30 yards out. Brady Whittekind pulled OP within one with an 83rd-minute strike, but Fullerton received late goals from Jacob Barron, Rene Santillan and Day to pull away for the 5-1 win. The victory helped idle Arlington Impact Red (VA) secure a second-place finish and spot at this summer’s National Championships.
FC Golden State Platinum (CA-S) and Baltimore Celtic 97/98 (MD) played to a 1-1 tie in a matchup between two veteran National League sides. FC Golden State opened the scoring in the Under-18 Red Division contest when Ezequiel Silva found the back of the net in the 31st minute. Baltimore pushed for an equalizer and found one in the 53rd minute, as Joshua Fawole recorded the tying goal. Neither side managed to net a game-winner, but both teams are still alive for a top-two finish in a very tight division race.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2015-16-National-League/