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LAS VEGAS (March 8, 2019) — The US Youth Soccer National League 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19U Boys resumed league play Friday at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex and James Regional Sports Park in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the 2019 Players College Showcase.
The boys entered the final weekend of their season with 22 berths to the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships still to be determined. Teams qualify for the National Championships by winning their division (14U-18U age groups) or by finishing in the top two of their division (19U age group). The top finishers in the 14U-18U 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.
While some sides moved closer to the top of the standings, no teams competing in Las Vegas clinched titles on Friday. Heading into the weekend, 22 tickets to the National Championships and 21 National League division titles are still to be decided.
Many of the games on Friday were very tight, as teams pursued valuable points in the standings. While 18U Club Ohio 01 Green 1 (OH-S) didn’t come away with a win, it used a late comeback to force a draw and pick up a key point.
“Down 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, and we found a way to score three goals,” said Club Ohio head coach Michael Lawrence. “To come back at this level against a quality team like Sparta shows a lot of these guys and the result keeps us alive. That’s the beauty of National League, every game is tough.”
With so many divisions up in the air and little separating each team, Lawrence acknowledged how tough it is to win a division title and said simply earning a place in the league demonstrates the quality of each team.
“The National League is the best thing we do and it’s the one thing we look forward to,” Lawrence said. “Knowing that in our group you’re going to get quality opponents and every team is a champion of some type, so it brings out the best of everyone.”
2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships Qualifiers via the National League
Blue: Lehigh Valley United 2000 Black (PA-E)
Red Champion: LMSC Rats (PA-E)
National League Boys action continues Saturday, March 9, with games beginning at 8 a.m. PT and the last matches kicking off at 2 p.m. PT (Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex) or 1:30 p.m. PT (James Regional Sports Park).
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, the top finishers from each division will earn a ticket to the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kan., creating additional value and pressure as each game could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
Since its inception, National League teams have captured a combined 56 of 78 possible National Championships. For a list of past National League champions and history, click here.
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.
Some highlights from Friday’s matches…
Libertyville FC 1974 Elite (IL) and KHA 05 Red (KY) came into the first day of Las Vegas play as the first and second place teams in the 14U White Division tied at six points apiece. The game was played at a very high speed with neither team able to make any meaningful moves in the final third during the first half. The best chance of the game came early in the second half as KHA looked as if it may get a 1v1 opportunity on goal. Libertyville’s goalkeeper came rushing out of the box with a perfectly timed sliding tackle to stop the chance. The pace of the game remained high with most of the possession taking place in the center of the field, as each team looked to break through the opposing defense. The game remained 0-0 at the final whistle and the teams headed into their second games of the day still tied at the top of the table. Libertyville remained at the top of the White Division at the end of the day, picking up a 2-0 win against 05 Charlotte Soccer Academy North/H'ville Elite (NC), while Players SC (NV) leapfrogged into second place with two wins on the day and now sits one point behind Libertyville.
The 14U Black Division was up for grabs, as only four points separated the first and last place teams after two games played in North Carolina. Raiders FC – 2005 (IL) and Dallas Kicks 05 (TX) each earned three points in the first round of today’s games, with the Illinois side earning a 2-1 victory over the previous Black Division leader Michigan Jaguars (MI). Meanwhile, Dallas Kicks notched a convincing 4-0 win over Germantown Legends 05 Black (TN). The Raiders win moved it up the table into a tie with Baltimore Celtic Elite (MD) — who had earned a 1-1 tie with AFFC Storm (PA-W) in its first game of the weekend — with seven points each. Dallas Kicks moved into second place heading into Saturday’s games with a 2-0 victory over Baltimore in its second game of the day. Kick’s Jose Sanchez scored the lone first half goal before his teammate, Jamie Jimenez, scored in the second half. Raiders notched its second win of the day with a tight 1-0 victory over Germantown. Emililo Ortiz scored the game’s lone goal in the 18th minute, and the defense did its part to keep the clean sheet as Raiders moved into first place heading into the second day of play in Las Vegas.
Real Jersey FC (NJ) and Soltilo FC Los Angeles (CA-S) sat three points behind 15U White Division leaders LMVSC 2004 Red (VA) heading into Las Vegas play, and each looked to make a move toward the top of the table when they met on Friday. Each team had chances to grab a goal in the first half but some great goalkeeping and lack of final passes kept the score level. Soltilo’s Jack Merrill was played in early but Jersey’s Matthew Marino came out to make a sprawling save to stop the attack. Soltilo kept the pressure on and connected with a header off a free kick, but the chance rang off the crossbar and bounced over. Soltilo continued to look dangerous off set pieces. A left-footed in-swinging ball from outside the box by Jordy Aviles kept Jersey’s Marino on his toes, and he punched out the ball as a Soltilo attacker just missed a chance to knock it home. Real Jersey gained some possession in the second half and had a great chance by Felipe Fernandez who hit a low shot but Soltilo’s Erik Flores got low to make the save. Flores and Marino continued to be tested but neither side could break the deadlock and the score ended 0-0. The tied opened up the door for Sparta Premier JK (UT) to move into first place with a big win over 04 Boise Timbers Pre Academy (ID). Soltilo will need a good result against Sparta in tomorrow’s match if it wants to stay in the hunt for the White Division title.
With the top of the 16U Blue Division filled with teams playing in Las Vegas, defending National Champion LVSA 03 Silver (NV) picked up a 3-1 win over Kalamazoo Kingdom SC 03 Red (MI) to keep pace at the top of the group. LVSA took an eighth-minute lead when Aidan Yamachika found the back of the net, but Connor Burkett equalized later in the half to send the teams to the break level at 1-1. Kalamazoo looked dangerous in the attacking end early in the second half, but LVSA held off the advances and regained the lead on an Abigay Gomez goal. Gomez pushed the advantage to 3-1 in the 68th minute when he finished from the left side of the box. His two goals proved to be the difference, as LVSA held on for the 3-1 victory.
Boca OC 02 White (CA-S) moved three points closer to the top of the 17U Red Division with a 4-1 win over FC United 2002 Pre Academy (IL). The Cal South side took an early lead on a Sebastian Romero strike in the sixth minute, but FC United responded shortly after with an Andrew Juarez goal. Boca regained its lead on a 24th-minute goal from Aaron Zarate, and it added to that advantage shortly after halftime when Uriel Ferguson found the back of the net. Michael Sedano capped the win with a 75th-minute strike, as Boca picked up its third straight win.
In a matchup of unbeaten and untied sides, Washington Premier 2002 Black (WA) picked up a 2-1 win over Galaxy 2002 Boys Blue (IL) to grab control of the 17U Black Division. Alexander Coope broke through in the 18th minute to give Washington the early advantage. It doubled that lead shortly after halftime when a ball cut back from the end line found Dominic Borromeo who finished from in front of goal to extend Washington’s advantage. Shea Bechtel pulled Galaxy within a goal in the 84th minute, but Washington held on in the final moments to secure the victory and move level with the group leaders with nine points.
In the 18U Black Division, RSL AZ North 01 Boys Tomic (AZ) overcame an early deficit to defeat YMS Premier Celtic 01 (PA-E), 2-1, on Friday. The Eastern Pennsylvania side struck first in the 10th minute, as it played a driven ball through a crowded box, and Matthew Dambra finished from a tight angle at the back post to give YMS the lead. RSL responded in the 22nd minute when a pass slipped Alexander Huguez in behind the defense, and he placed his shot around the onrushing keeper to equalize. Huguez netted his second goal of the game in the opening minute of the second half to give RSL a 2-1 advantage. The Arizona side maintained the lead for the remainder of the match, as it earned the three points to pass YMS in the standings and inch closer to the group leaders.
A frantic comeback in the final half-hour of play allowed Club Ohio 01 Green 1 (OH-S) to earn a 4-4 draw against Sparta 01 Premier JK (UT) in 18U White Division action. Sparta received goals from Fabian Gonzalez Limones and Casey Lambert to grab a 2-0 advantage early in the second half. Ethan Love pulled a goal back for Club Ohio, but Jack Terrill and Arturo Martin Pimentel each found the back of the net for Sparta to give the Utah side a 4-1 advantage in the 50th minute. Club Ohio’s Austin Schmitt cut into the deficit with a 58th-minute strike, and Jaggar Brooker made it 4-3 with a goal in the 78th minute. Love completed the comeback in the 87th minute when he chested down the ball and volleyed a shot inside the left post. Club Ohio keeper Theren Handlon pushed a curling free kick wide of the left post in stoppage time to preserve the key point that keeps the Ohio South side above all of its Las Vegas opponents in the standings heading into the weekend.
Sparta 00 JK (UT) held off Baltimore Celtic SC 00 (MD) for a 3-2 win that drew the sides even at six points in the 19U Red Division standings. The result also allowed LMSC Rats (PA-E) to clinch the top spot in the division after it won all five of its games between North Carolina and Florida. In the 19U Blue Division, local side Downtown LVSC 00 Gold (NV) moved into third place with a 2-1 win on Friday.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: USYouthSoccer.org/tournaments/2018-19-National-League/