LAS VEGAS, Nevada (Via US Youth Soccer) — The US Youth Soccer National League 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19/20U Girls completed their third and final day of matches at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas, Nevada, alongside the 2017 Players College Showcase on Sunday. It marked the final day of the 2016-17 season, and standings are now finalized with division titles, berths to the US Youth Soccer National Championships and guaranteed spots in the league next year decided.
The 2016-17 season was an exciting one for the girls, as seven division titles were decided on the final day of play. Every division winner punched a ticket to the 2017 US Youth Soccer National Championships, while runners up in the 15U and 19/20U age groups also earned a berth to Nationals in Frisco, Texas. Additionally, several sides in the 15U, 16U and 17U age groups earned an automatic spot to compete in the league again next season. With so much on the line, games in Las Vegas carried significant meaning toward the outcome of the season.
Eight total teams secured a berth to the 2017 National Championships on Sunday, as each and every minute of the season went into determining their fate. Scottsdale Blackhawks Taylor (AZ) was among the teams who earned spots at Nationals on the season’s final day, as the Arizona side finished a perfect run in the 17U Red Division with a victory in a winner-take-all matchup.
“That shows the level of the National League. To come in 6-0, most teams would already be through to the National Championship,” Scottsdale coach Paul Taylor said. “Having to go 7-0 and be National League winners, and win that final game against a very good team in FC Pride — it’s a testament to the level and the standard of the league.”
Scottsdale was one of three girls teams, along with 15U Cincinnati United Premier Gold (OH-S) and 18U TSC Showcase (TN), to finish their season 7-0-0. In addition to having no losses or ties, the 15U CUP side set a new team scoring record with 34 goals on the season.
Cincinnati United Premier also had three division titles as a club, tied with Legends FC (CA-S) for most on the season. Legends also had another qualifier in the 15U age group, giving it four total teams who qualified for the National Championships.
“You’re at the stage now where every team is a great team. You have to be at your very best at this level,” 17U Legends coach Richard Boon said. “The National League offers the best competition from around the country.
“I’m excited for the club and for the coaching staff. More importantly, it was the players who played the game. They dedicated their time, the effort for the ultimate goal to get to Texas, and they’re there.”
2017 US Youth Soccer National Championship Qualifiers via the National League
Some highlights from Sunday’s matches…
After enduring a 1-1 tie against Arsenal FC Brown (CA-S), Legends FC 02 Academy 1 (CA-S) claimed second place in the 15U Black Division. While Arsenal could have taken the crown with a win on Sunday, Legends earned a berth to the National Championships based on points. It was goal-to-goal play for the majority of the game, but Arsenal seemed to have a hold on the more dangerous opportunities. After one Arsenal attempt, however, Legends transitioned into its attacking end, and Mya Daily found the back of the net after lifting the ball over and past the Arsenal goalkeeper. The goal deficit did not stop Arsenal as the team continued to create plays close to goal. Arsenal soon converted the equalizer when Nicole Dallin sent a left-footed bullet inside the right post. In the second half, both teams searched for the go-ahead goal, and Arsenal nearly had it as a player beat the Legends goalkeeper, but a defender made the last second save off of the goal line. Legends finished second in the division with 14 points—four points behind the division winner, Nationals Union 02 Black (MI).
With a little help from another 15U Red Division matchup and a 1-0 win over Fullerton Rangers 02 White (CA-S), La Roca-PO 02 (UT) finished second in the division and simultaneously earned a spot at the National Championships. It was a long game of even play with a scoreless first half, yet in the 70th minute, Whitney Lopez buried the game winner. Lopez stepped up to take a free kick at the top of the 18-yard box and drove the ball into the upper back of the net. Going into the game, the stakes were high for La Roca as the Utah side needed to win, as well as a loss from Sporting OFC 2002 Elite (NE) in order to make it through. La Roca did its job and the cards were played in its favor for the berth to Nationals.
In the 16U White Division, Legends FC 01 Academy (CA-S) got the point it needed to finish in first place thanks to a scoreless draw with USA Stars 01 (CA-N). Despite needing just a draw, Legends looked to gain some breathing room with a go-ahead goal. The Cal South side produced several dangerous free kick opportunities in the second half, but USA did well to prevent anything from coming of the chances. As the end of regulation neared, Legends grew more conservative and successfully held on to secure the tie. Legends finished even on points with EGA 01 Maroon Omaha (NE) but claimed the division title thanks to its plus-8 goal differential.
With the 17U Red Division title on the line, Scottsdale Blackhawks Taylor (AZ) came away with a 1-0 win over FC Pride 00 Elite (IN). Needing a win to pass Scottsdale, FC Pride came out with some early pressure before the Blackhawks settled in and began to get their share of possession. Following a scoreless first half, Scottsdale grabbed the lead in the 49th minute — putting all the pressure on FC Pride to score twice. Emily Chiao provided the breakthrough goal when she headed home a corner kick at the back post after a nice service from Ashley Valdivieso. That proved to be the game-winner, as Scottsdale recorded its third straight clean sheet to complete a 7-0-0 season and take the division title.
Needing just a draw to secure a first-place finish, CUP 00 Gold (OH-S) left no doubt with a 3-0 win over Princeton SA (NJ) in 17U Black Division action. The Ohio South side grabbed a lead just before halftime when a free kick into the box found Kate Larbes, whose flicked header looped inside the back post and into the net. Anna Podojil’s speed down the right flank created some problems for Princeton early in the second half, and it eventually led to a CUP insurance goal. Following a Princeton corner kick in the 77th minute, Podojil gathered the ball in her own penalty area and raced the length of the field before squaring a pass to Jordyn Rhodes, who calmly placed her shot past the keeper. Nicoletta Anuci capped the 3-0 victory by finishing a shot from a tough angle in the 86th minute, as CUP earned the Black Division title and a trip to Nationals.
Legends FC 00 Academy (CA-S) needed a tie against Greater Seattle Surf 00A (WA) to claim the 17U White Division crown, and that’s exactly what happened in the final match of the season. The Cal South side is headed to Nationals after playing to a 2-2 draw on Sunday. Surf took the lead in the 15th minute when Madison Hinkel received a through ball on the right flank and blasted an upper corner finish, but Legends responded six minutes later with a goal from Elisabeth Chua. Legends stole the lead as a cross on the ground came to Allison Adams, who ripped a first-time shot that made its way through several Surf defenders. In the second half, Surf got back into the game as Isabel Kembel received the ball with her back facing the goal before spinning the defender and hitting a shot inside the near post. Surf showed determination to produce another goal for the win, while Legends held on to the advantage, and the Cal South side had the score end in its favor. Legends finished off the season with a 5-0-2 record.
Legends FC 99 Academy (CA-S) defeated La Roca Premier PO (UT), 2-1, to take the 18U Red Division crown. Both teams had their chances at goal, but it was Legends’ Kristin Breaux who earned a late first-half goal as she ran onto a through ball that split the defenders and slipped the ball past the goalkeeper. The equalizer came seven minutes into the second half off of a corner kick, which ensued into a melee, and Marli Niederhauser stepped up to bury the ball away. La Roca clearly wanted another goal, but Legends reclaimed the momentum when Lauren Butler was on the end of a corner kick and headed the ball inside the back post. As La Roca only needed a draw to claim the division title, the Utah side nearly tied up the match once more with a rocket of a shot, but Legends goalkeeper Amanda Delgado made a crucial diving save to force the ball out. Legends is now headed to Nationals after acquiring a 5-0-2 record this National League season.
Santa Clara Sporting 99 Green (CA-N) needed a win to be crowned 18U Black Division champion, but a 1-1 draw against Utah FC 99 Black (UT) prevented the dream from becoming a reality. While Utah FC applied high pressure, Santa Clara got on the board first as Belinda Ascencio dribbled through and sent the ball into the back of the net. The second half had more back-and-forth play, but Santa Clara held onto the lead, and it nearly walked away with a win until Utah FC earned a penalty kick. Ashton Brockbank stepped up to the ball and finished the ball into the left bottom corner for the 86th-minute equalizer. In the end, idle Nationals Union 99 Black (MI) claimed the 18U Black Division title after no team in Las Vegas surpassed Nationals in the standings.
A 3-1 win over ASA Azzurri 98 (MD) helped YMS Premier Xplosion 98 (PA-E) cap an undefeated season and claim the 19/20U Red Division title. ASA made it difficult in the early going for YMS, as Blair Vilov found the back of the net in the 10th minute to give the Maryland side a 1-0 lead. However, YMS quickly provided an answer in the form a Rachel Beri goal to level the score. The defending National Champions nearly grabbed a lead just before the halftime whistle, but the ASA keeper came off her line to deny a quick counter movement from YMS. It didn’t take long after the break for the Eastern Pennsylvania side to capture its first lead of the game, as Murphy Agnew put her side in front in the 52nd minute. Margaret Daeche capped the win with a 79th-mintue goal, as YMS gained the three points it needed to pass 98 CR Academy (NC) in the standings. The North Carolina side will still advance to Nationals as the group’s runner-up.