GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (April 15, 2021) — Excitement is brewing following the recent announcement of National League P.R.O. and the automatic qualifying spots. Following their outstanding performances in the Fall 2020 season of the US Youth Soccer Midwest Conference, 16 conference teams have already secured qualification for National League P.R.O.
Sena Halilovic, Club Director at Chicago Inter (IL), believes the opportunity to compete in National League P.R.O. adds extra importance to games that were already important for Conference play. Chicago Inter has the most berths of any club in the nation so far, with their club being represented in next year’s 16U Girls, 17U Girls, and 19U Girls age groups.
“Adding National League P.R.O. to what we've been doing will create more competition and intensity to the games, as teams will know what they can additionally achieve if they do well,” Halilovic said. “Our staff is extremely delighted that the National League is back because it was always a top-notch league with many benefits: the possible berth to the National Championships, getting a chance to compete against some of the best teams in the country, and the exposure to college coaches for the athletes.”
National League P.R.O., which kicks off in Fall 2021, will be composed of 48 teams in each gender age group from across the country, with 12 teams coming from each region. Within each age group, teams are placed into six groups of eight, with each side competing in seven games over the course of the season. From there, 12 teams per age group advance to the USYS National Championships.
Upon learning of his teams’ qualification for National League P.R.O., Srgjan Smileski of Greater Libertyville FC 1974 (IL) could hardly contain his excitement at the news that the club will have representatives in the Girls 16U and 18U age groups.
"We, as a club, are very proud and excited to be back in this competition — to be represented in two age groups and having chance to try to earn the spot at the US Youth Soccer National Championships," Smileski said.
"We are thrilled that USYS has created National League P.R.O. in its traditional structure,” Greater Libertyville Executive Director Michael Zovistoski said. “The National League competition has always been a platform that our Elite teams have strived to attain, and the opportunity to once again play against the best USYS teams from across the country is very exciting.”
Chicago Inter and Libertyville earned their berth in National League P.R.O. by winning their respective brackets in the Club vs. Club Divisions of the Fall 2020 Midwest Conference, as did North Shore United (WI). The Wisconsin club’s Director of Coaching, Joe Hammes, is looking forward to his 16U team taking the next step in the 17U age group next year.
“The team has played some of its best soccer in the most pressure-packed situations, so everyone is looking froward to what this next challenge of the National League P.R.O. presents,” Hammes said. “Knowing that promotion to National League P.R.O. is on the line though Midwest Conference Club vs. Club league play, there is no doubt that each of the MWC games will take on a little extra meaning.”
The bracket winners in the Club vs. Club Divisions are joined by the winner and runners-up in the Premier I Divisions from the Fall 2020 season of the Midwest Conference. Among those teams is Legends FC 2004 Girls Black (MI), who, as a result of winning the 17U Girls Premier I Division, will be competing as an 18U Girls side in National League P.R.O. for the 2021-22 seasonal year.
“I think the ability to qualify gives every team something to strive for,” said Jacob Zammit, Director of Coaching at Legends FC. “At the end of the day, everyone is hoping for the chance to play for the National Championship and the P.R.O league offers that pathway. We expect to play in matches that bring together the best of US Youth Soccer. For us, that would be the best competition, the best facilities, the most access to college coaches.”
Click here to view the announcement of automatic qualifying slots and see all the teams that have already clinched their spot in the 2021-22 season of National League P.R.O. These teams will be joined by others based upon their Conference finishes as the spring season continues.
To follow the Midwest Conference results and standings, click here.
Click here for more information on the Midwest Conference. For more information on all of the National League Conferences, the National League Showcase Series, and the National League Playoffs, click here.