Consistently strong efforts across all seven of its games allowed Baltimore Celtic 02 (MD) to capture the 18U Boys Black Division title during the action in Tampa. Baltimore started its season with a few close games in Panama City Beach that resulted in four straight wins to position itself atop the standings. As well as Celtic played to open its campaign, it was even better in Tampa, where it picked up three decisive wins. With its perfect 7-0-0 record, Baltimore clinched a first-place finish in the Black Division, as it netted 30 total goals while conceding just seven.
Cedar Stars Academy Newark 2002 Green (NJ) gave Baltimore its toughest test, as the New Jersey side took an early lead when the two sides met before Celtic came back to win, 2-1. That was the lone blemish on Cedar Stars Academy’s resume to this point, as it finished its opening week with three wins and a plus-10 goal differential. While it can’t win the division, the New Jersey side can complete a strong season with a few more results in Las Vegas and grab some momentum heading into the spring and summer competitions.
SC Wave Juniors 02 Boys (WI) and Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals 02 Black (PA-E) each also have a shot at finishing in second place in the division with three games left to play in Las Vegas.
Game to Watch
March 14, Cedar Stars Academy Newark 2002 Green (NJ) vs. SC Wave Juniors 02 Boys (WI)
Both of these teams had strong showings during the week in Panama City Beach. As the top two teams in the standings of those with games remaining, Cedar Stars Academy and SC Wave each have the ability to finish the year in second place. Outside of division winner Baltimore Celtic, these two teams have averaged the most goals scored per game, so this match could be a pretty even contest with two sides capable of putting the ball in the net.
All four teams competing in Las Vegas in the 18U Boys Blue Division are very much in the hunt for first place. TSC 02 Boys Showcase Nashville (TN) is currently on top of the standings after finishing its season in Tampa with 13 points, but all four teams with games remaining are within six points or less of TSC.
As the only undefeated team remaining in the division, Galaxy 2002 Boys Blue (IL) is the current leader among the teams playing in Las Vegas. Galaxy picked up three wins and a draw to start its season, and it enters the final weekend of play just three points back of first place. The Illinois side has a step up on the competition in Las Vegas, but Galaxy doesn’t have much margin for error with three more teams right on its heels.
Midwest United FC 02 Royal (MI) and Coral Estates Strikers Elite (FL) each have three wins — putting them both one point behind Galaxy and four points from the top of the standings. Midwest United will look to regain its form from the opening week, as it was the lone team to average more than three goals scored per game. On the other hand, Club Ohio 2002 Green 1 (OH-S) has showcased the stiffest defense of the division, as it allowed just two goals through its first four games. That allowed the Ohio South side to compile seven points, which keeps it in the title race as it heads to Las Vegas.
Game to Watch
March 13, Midwest United FC 02 Royal (MI) vs. Galaxy 2002 Boys Blue (IL)
With all of the teams so close in the standings and squarely in pursuit of the division title, any of the games in Las Vegas could prove to be the most influential in deciding first place. This matchup to begin the weekend pits the two highest-scoring sides against each other. Midwest United will be the first team to have a shot at eliminating Galaxy’s slim edge in the standings, as it looks to hand the Illinois side its first loss of the weekend. However, if Galaxy can secure a win, it will mean even less room for error for the teams looking to surpass it in the title race.
The 18U Boys Red Division currently has Salvo SC/REV Academy 2002 Navy (MN) on top of the standings with 15 points. That is a solid point total, but Salvo — which completed its season in Tampa — will need each of the results in Las Vegas to play out in a particular way for it keep a hold of that top spot.
The main challengers to overtake Salvo are Michigan Jaguars 02 Green (MI) and Arlington SA 2002 Red (VA). Both sides began their seasons by winning all four of their games in Panama City Beach. The Jaguars were especially strong, as they outscored their opponents, 17-to-1, in those contests. Arlington didn’t have the same scoring outbursts as Michigan, but the Virginia side was nearly as impressive defensively — conceding just two goals in its four games. With each team heading to Vegas with 12 points in hand, they can both match the division-leading point total with a single victory.
LVU 02 Boys Black (PA-E) is also still alive in the pursuit of the Red Division title. The Eastern PA side mixed in one dominant win amongst three very tight matches in Panama City Beach, where it dropped a 1-0 decision to Salvo in its last game. That result leaves LVU with some work to do, as it needs to win all three matches in Las Vegas and get some help in the other games to have a shot at first place. The same can be said for Westside Timbers 02 Copa Red (OR), which is still alive with six points but has even less margin for error in the title hunt.
Game to Watch
March 14, Michigan Jaguars 02 Green (MI) vs. Arlington SA 2002 Red (VA)
All four teams playing in Las Vegas are mathematically in the hunt for the Red Division title, but these two teams have a clear step up on the competition. The Jaguars and Arlington are both looking to win the division and punch a ticket back to the National Championships, where they met last summer. The two sides tied when they met in Overland Park, Kan., and each went on to advance out of Group B. It’s very possible this matchup on Saturday in Vegas is the primary factor in deciding which team wins the Red Division — guaranteeing another trip to Overland Park to compete for the National Championship.
During the weekend of play in Las Vegas, the 18U Boys White Division will feature some teams who will be chasing and one team that will be eagerly watching. CUP 02 Gold (OH-S) currently leads the division with 14 points in the standings after wrapping up its season in Tampa. The Ohio South side will now have to wait and see if that total is enough to hold on to first place.
There are three teams within striking distance of CUP’s total that still have games left to play. Top among those sides is FC United 2002 Pre Academy (IL), which came away from the opening week of play in Panama City Beach with three wins from four games. FC United’s last game resulted in a 2-1 win against CUP, so it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, should that come into play.
Just behind FC United sits Brausa 02 Blue (MD), which is undefeated after two wins and two draws to start its season. The Maryland side is six points behind CUP with three games left to play, so it will need to get at least two wins in Las Vegas to have a shot at the division title. SLSG 02 Elite (MO) is in a similar position, as it enters the final weekend of the season with seven points and will need to double that figure to compete for a first-place finish.
Game to Watch
March 14, Brausa 02 Blue (MD) vs. FC United 2002 Pre Academy (IL)
None of the teams in the title chase can afford to drop many, if any, points during the weekend in Las Vegas. In this match, Brausa will look to take points from FC United and eliminate the chance of the Illinois side pulling away from the pack. If Brausa can pick up the win, that could give it a real chance at competing for the division title. On the other hand, there is a possibility FC United could clinch the division title with a win in this match, dependent on the results of the other matchups over the course of the first two days of play in Las Vegas.