WESTFIELD, Ind. (Sept. 27, 2020) — Teams from the US Youth Soccer Midwest Conference and USYS Great Lakes Conference completed their weekend of league play on Sunday at the Grand Park Athletic Complex in Westfield, Ind.
The weekend of conference play featured 93 teams from the Midwest Conference in the 14U-19U Girls and 14U Boys age groups, as well as 10 teams from the Great Lakes Conference in the 14U Boys and Girls age groups. The games at Grand Park primarily featured teams in the Premier I, Premier II and Club vs. Club Divisions of the Conferences.
Sunday featured a clash between the top two teams in the Great Lakes 14U Boys Premier I Division, as group leader Hoosier FC 2007 Elite Wolves (IN) played a thrilling match against Michigan Tigers FC 2007 Boys Gold (MI). In a back-and-forth contest between two undefeated sides, the teams finished in a draw that allowed Hoosier FC to maintain a two-point lead atop the standings.
“It was a tremendous game by both teams. It was a joy to watch,” Hoosier FC coach Tom Keenan said. “We knew with Tigers being a top team in the Great Lakes Conference and also in the region, it was going to be a very difficult, hard fought game. I thought it was a fair result and both teams played extremely hard.”
The Michigan side received goals from Colton Swan, Tyson McCoy and Owen Carnegie, while Cooper Flanary played a role in all three Hoosier FC tallies. Flanary found the back of the net with a left-footed strike to level the score at 1-1 midway through the first half, and he whipped in a free kick that eventually resulted in a go-ahead goal shortly before the break. Flanary gave his side a 3-2 lead when he headed home Ellis Nichols’ corner kick in the second half before the Tigers quickly replied with Carnegie’s tying goal.
“We talked about it before the game. This is why we play in this league — for games like this,” Keenan said. “To get my players experience against a quality team in this kind of game is only going to help them in the future as a group.”
While Hoosier FC and Michigan Tigers FC are pursuing a Premier I Division title and berth to the 2021 USYS Midwest Regional Championships, many Premier II Division sides are competing with promotion for next season in mind.
In a Midwest Conference 17U Girls Premier II Division matchup, Evolution SC 04 Girls Mercurial (IL) came back from a goal down to beat Nationals TriCounty 04 Girls Black (MI), 2-1, in its opening match of the season.
“The players have definitely been itching to get out to play. I was super excited for them to take the field and play their first game,” Evolution coach Bunnyray Larmond said. “With it being the first game, you could tell physically it was a challenge, especially being the first year playing 45-minute halves, but they handled it well.”
Kaitlyn Roth put Nationals up shortly before half, but Evolution continued to battle after the break. Lauren Barnett equalized midway through the second half, and Evolution goalkeeper Hillery Mason made multiple key saves to keep the game tied. In the final minutes, Barnett directed a low cross from Isabelle Kastel into the net for the game-winner.
“We talked about starting strong quite a bit coming into the game,” Larmond said. “It’s very important to have the right first impression to kick the season off. For us, getting a positive result was really critical given the goals that we have set for the season.”
The Midwest Conference and Great Lakes Conference are two of 13 Conferences under the National League in the Multi-State Tier. The Midwest Conference consists of teams primarily from Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. The Great Lakes Conference consists of teams primarily from New York West, Pennsylvania West, West Virginia, Ohio North, Ohio South, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Kentucky.
The top teams in the Midwest Conference and Great Lakes Conference will earn advancement to the US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Championships, part of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series. Conference teams also have a pathway to participate in the new National League Showcase Series and to qualify for the National League Playoffs.
Click here for more information on the Midwest Conference, and click here for more information on the Great Lakes Conference. For more information on all of the National League Conferences, the National League Showcase Series, and the National League Playoffs, click here.