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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 10, 2017) — The US Youth Soccer National League 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19/20U Boys resumed league play Friday at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the 2017 Players College Showcase.
The boys entered the final weekend of their season with 17 berths to the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships still to be determined. Teams qualify for the National Championships by winning their division (16U, 17U and 18U age groups) or by finishing in the top two of their division (15U and 19/20U age groups). The top finishers in the 15U, 16U and 17U age groups also secure their place in the league for next season, meaning the teams had plenty on the line as they kicked off their weekend in Las Vegas.
No teams were able to secure berths to Nationals on Friday — leaving 17 tickets to the National Championships and 14 division titles to be decided over the weekend. While no hardware was handed out on Friday, several teams picked up important points to inch closer to capturing coveted National League division championships.
Sporting STL - McMahon Ford (MO) was one such team that used a win on Friday to put itself in position to capture a division title. Now sitting just a win away from first place in the 18U Blue Division, Sporting STL coach Pete Collico knows the unique opportunity they have to potentially clinch a berth to Nationals through the National League.
“There are thousands of kids who never get this opportunity,” Collico said. “You really have to cherish the moment because it’s only going to come every so often or maybe never. You have to take advantage of the moment and what’s ahead of us to do the best you can do to become a National Champion.”
The intensity and meaning behind each game attracts college coaches to the National League each season. One college coach who is particularly familiar with the league is Cornell assistant coach Drew Hutchins, who competed as a player in the National League’s first season with the YMS Xplosion (PA-E).
Hutchins said the National League provides players with the chance to play against different styles of play while also showcasing their character as they compete for division title and berths to Nationals.
“It’s still a battle. When I’m going around watching other games, certain showcase tournaments, sometimes you don’t see that competitive edge as much anymore,” Hutchins said. “You definitely see it in the National League. As a coach, we need to see kids in that environment to get a true evaluation.”
2017 US Youth Soccer National Championship Qualifiers via the National League
Red Champion: Lobos Rush 01 Premier (TN)
Black Champion: McLean 00 Green (VA)
Red: Penn Fusion 98 (PA-E)
National League Boys action continues Saturday, March 11 at the 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 Eastern Regional 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, the UEFA Champions League, the Olympics and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The top pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and the last three NWSL Drafts (2015-17) have each been former National League players.
Some highlights from Friday’s matches…
By holding on for a 3-2 win Friday against USA MP O2 Premier (SC), Midwest United FC 02 Royal (MI) moved to 5-0-0 in the 15U Red Division — putting it in prime position to earn a berth to Nationals. David Ross spotted Midwest an early two-goal lead with a pair of quick strikes in the opening six minutes. USA MP pulled a goal back in the 15th minute when Russell Jackson slid a penalty kick inside the left post. Early in the second half, the USA MP keeper made a pair of standouts saves on a free kick and penalty kick to keep his side within a goal. However, John Scott later managed to give Midwest that insurance goal with a first-time strike in the 67th minute. That proved to be vital, as Jackson curled a 75th-minute shot into the far corner to cut the USA MP deficit to 3-2. However, Midwest did well to see out the game and earned the 3-2 victory.
LVSA 01 Red (NV) is one win from clinching first place in the 16U White Division after pulling away for a 5-1 win over Village of the Branch Cosmos United 2001 (NY-E). LVSA fell behind early when Andrew Weiner found the back of the net for the Eastern New York side. That lead didn’t last long, as Hayden Madsen-Gross recorded a 25th-minute goal to level the score at 1-1. Eight minutes later, a ball crossed into the box eventually made its way to Lincoln Aquino, who hit a strike past the keeper to give LVSA a 2-1 lead. LVSA’s Cole Lawrence provided the perfect service for a pair of Madsen-Gross tallies early in the second half that helped extend the LVSA lead. Lawrence played a well-placed low cross into the path of Madsen-Gross, who swept his 49th-minute shot into the net. Just two minutes later, Lawrence found the head of Madsen-Gross, and he powered his attempt past the Cosmos United keeper. Hayden Prasad added an insurance goal to cap LVSA’s commanding win.
CUP Gold 01 (OH-S) defeated KSA 01 Pro-Profile (GA), 2-0, to move into second place in the 16U Blue Division. After going to the break in a scoreless deadlock, KSA put the pressure on CUP early in the second half — forcing the CUP keeper into two great saves. David Medina had a tough bouncing half-volley chance saved and the keeper later pushed a curling ball wide of the post. CUP responded by going on the attack and finding a goal in the 53rd minute. A ball played hard into the box from the right side found its way through a mass of players and was slammed home by Zachary Napora. Brennan Gallo added to CUP’s advantage when a cross, this time from the left side, found its way all the way across the box to his feet. Gallo made no mistakes and finished his chance to give his team a two-goal advantage. With the 2-0 win, CUP now has a great chance to lockdown a birth in the 2017 National Championships with positive results in its final two games.
Raiders FC (IL) remained undefeated in the 17U Red Division with its 3-1 victory over LMSC Sabertooth Rats (PA-E) on the first day of play in Las Vegas. Sean Touey almost put LMSC ahead early when he got in on goal, but Raider’s goalkeeper stood strong and made a huge save to keep the teams tied. LMSC would not be denied as it took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute of play. Philip Burckhardt broke through the Raiders defense and then unselfishly played a ball across the face of goal to Jared Dillon for an easy tap-in. Raiders had a great chance to tie the game just a few minutes later after earning a penalty kick, but the attempt was saved by Luke Smith to keep LMSC ahead. Raiders finally got an attempt on goal beyond Smith to level the score. A free kick was saved into the post by Smith but bounced into the center of the box, where Evangelo Spartiatis was waiting for the rebound and slammed it home to level the sides in the 85th minute. Spartiatis added a second goal just four minutes later to give his team the lead. Christian Crespo sealed the game in the 90th minute, as he broke through the defense and lobbed a bouncing ball over the onrushing keeper to bring the final score to 3-1.
It didn’t take long for Sporting STL - McMahon Ford (MO) to grab control in its 4-2 victory over LA Premier FC LAFA (CA-S), as the St. Louis side scored just 26 seconds into the contest. Sporting applied immediate pressure, which freed Johnny Klein for a low drive inside the right post. LA bounced back quickly, as Bryan Perez hit home a 13th-minute rebound to tie the game at 1-1. Sporting finished the half strong with strikes from Alvin Wesshe and Klein in the 33rd and 37th minutes to take a two-goal advantage into the second half. Ludovico Riviello pulled a goal back for LA early in the second half, but Joseph Mueller managed to get behind the Cal South side’s defense in the 66th minute to extend the St. Louis lead back to two goals. That’s how the match finished, as the Missouri side held on for the 4-2 win to pull within a win of the 18U Blue Division title.
CUP 99 Gold (OH-S) defeated LA Galaxy South Bay Elite (CA-S), 3-0, on Friday and now holds a one-point lead over the rest of the 18U White Division. After a scoreless first half, CUP’s Cody Busam gave his team the boost it needed by finding the back of the net to break the deadlock. Just 10 minutes later, Busam was at it again as he received a through ball into LA’s final third. Busam worked his way beyond the defenders and then dribbled around a stranded LA keeper before tapping in a shot to give his team a 2-0 lead. Wesly Coleman completed the scoring in the 80th minute to cap the 3-0 victory.
Challenger Crew Jrs Gold 98 (OH-N) picked up a key point in the 19/20U Blue Division standings with a 1-1 draw against Albion SC White (CA-S) on Friday. The Ohio North side tested the Albion back line with consistent pressure throughout the first half but couldn’t manage to net a breakthrough goal. Albion keeper Seth Ketterer denied the best chance in the 40th minute when he quickly reacted to a close-range header before securing the loose ball while falling to the ground. Challenger finally broke through in the 75th minute via a Patrick Strauss strike, but Albion immediately replied with an equalizer from Juan Rodriguez. Albion nearly stole the three points in the final minute, but the Challenger keeper lunged to tip a dangerous free kick attempt over the bar — securing the draw. The draw puts the Ohio North side one win away from moving into a first-place tie in the division.
FC United (IL) finally got the scoring going after some stingy defense by Pipeline (MD) kept the Illinois side off the scoreboard early. FC United’s Noah Melick put his team ahead when he headed a floating ball into the back of the net. Alexander Alfaro increased United’s lead as he smashed a rocket into the upper corner from outside the box. Jake Nunez finished the scoring in the 69th minute. With the 3-0 win, FC United puts itself in a great position to finish in the top two spots of the 19/20U Red Division as it prepares for the final two days of play.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: Tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2016-17-National-League/