All is still to play for in the 17U Black Division, as three of the top five teams are in action in Las Vegas — including a pair of 4-0-0 sides who enter the weekend tied at the top of the standings. CUP 00 Gold (OH-S) and Princeton SA (NJ) each came away with four wins in North Carolina and control their own fate in the race for the division title and berth to the US Youth Soccer National Championships.
Meanwhile, Rebels SC Elite (CA-S) also came away from the opening week of the season undefeated. By picking up two wins and two ties, the Cal South side is just four points back of the co-leaders. It will need to make up some ground in Las Vegas, but the head-to-head matchups against CUP and Princeton give Rebels SC the opportunity to do so.
FC Salmon Creek Nemesis 00 Ellertson (OR) is seven points behind the leaders and mathematically still alive. However, the Oregon side must win all three games in Las Vegas and get just the right combination of results in the other contests in order to have a shot at the title.
Game to Watch
March 19, Princeton SA (NJ) vs. CUP 00 Gold (OH-S)
There’s not much question about the significance of this matchup. Each side enters the weekend with a perfect record — making it very likely that this game could decide the Black Division champion. On paper, CUP appears to have the upper hand. The 2016 National finalist conceded just one goal in North Carolina while netting 12 goals. Princeton’s victories didn’t come as easily, but that could benefit the New Jersey side, as it is used to finding ways to win close games.
Defending National Champion Midwest United FC 00 Royal (MI) has secured its ticket back to Frisco, Texas, after clinching the 17U Blue Division crown in Orlando. Midwest completed a 6-1-0 season in early January to win its second straight Blue Division title after doing so as a 15U side in 2015-16. Now, the Michigan side will look to once again repeat history and ride a dominant National League campaign into Nationals, where it will aim to defend its title.
The remaining teams still have a shot to earn a place back into the National League with a top-three finish this season. New Jersey Stallions Academy-Stampede (NJ) and Sunrise Sting 2000 (FL) finished their seasons in Orlando with 13 and 11 points, respectively. They’ll have to wait to see if that is enough to remain in the top three, as Beach Academy (CA-S) and Century V Gold (PA-W) each have a shot of jumping into second or third.
Game to Watch
March 18, Beach Academy (CA-S) vs. Century V Gold (PA-W)
This is an example of the type of National League game that can feature contrasting styles of play. The two sides — separated by more than 2,000 miles — will have a chance to face an uncommon opponent with the chance to earn a place back into the National League for the 2017-18 season. Both sides will need to pick up points in each game to accomplish that feat, so this should be an entertaining matchup between two aggressive teams.
Each team competing in Las Vegas in the 17U Red Division has at least two wins, as the pursuit of first place will come down to the final days of play. FC United Select 1 2000 (IL), which finished its season in Orlando, has a narrow one-point lead at the top of the standings but is unlikely to remain there.
Scottsdale Blackhawks Taylor (AZ) enters the weekend just one point behind FC United after going 4-0-0 in North Carolina. The Arizona side has not blown away opponents, as its margin of victory was just one goal in each of its four wins. The Blackhawks will need to continue to earn points in those toss-up games with FC Pride 00 Elite (IN) lurking just two points behind. The Indiana side’s only blemish is a tie, and it outscored opponents by seven goals in its three wins.
LMSC Storm (PA-E) and Premier Strikers (MD) each enter the final weekend with six points in the standings and have an outside shot of making a run at the division title. Each side will need to win all three games and get some help in the other contests to make that a reality.
Game to Watch
March 19, Scottsdale Blackhawks Taylor (AZ) vs. FC Pride 00 Elite (IN)
This game on the season’s final day could very well decide who wins the Red Division and punches a ticket to the 2017 National Championships. Scottsdale enters the weekend with a two-point edge in the standings, but FC Pride has experience in closing out a National League campaign. The Indiana side earned last year’s 15U Red Division title by picking up seven points in Las Vegas. Unless either team stumbles over the course of the first two days, this game should be the one to decide if Scottsdale can prevent FC Pride from repeating as the Red Division winner.
The 17U White Division title can go any one of three ways entering the final weekend of play. Campton United 1 (IL) is currently in first place after finishing its season in Orlando with 15 points in the standings. It will take at least two days of play in Las Vegas to determine if that’s enough for Campton to hold on for the title.
Chasing the Illinois side will be Legends FC 00 Academy (CA-S) and Greater Seattle Surf 00A (WA), who are five and six points back of first, respectively. Legends picked up three wins and a tie in North Carolina and owns a head-to-head victory over Campton, should that come into play.
Greater Seattle Surf also defeated the group leaders, so it too would be in good shape should tiebreakers be needed to decide the group winner.
Game to Watch
March 19, Greater Seattle Surf 00A (WA) vs. Legends FC 00 Academy (CA-S)
There’s not much debate as to which game in the White Division carries the most importance in Las Vegas. Every point during the first two days of play will be key, but it’s likely that this could be a winner-take-all game to decide the division winner. It’s hard to tell which side may have a leg up based on their performances in North Carolina, as both teams showed an ability to win using offensive firepower or stingy defense. If this game sets up to be a match to decide the division title, it will be exciting to see which teams comes out on the front foot.
Elizabeth Matei, Liliana Fernandez and Kayla Fernandez (Sunrise Sting) were on the Florida 2001 roster for the 2017 US Youth Soccer ODP Championships.
Savianna Gomez and Sarai Zedingil (Beach Academy) were on the Cal South 2001 roster for the 2017 US Youth Soccer ODP Championships.
Taylor Dobles and Maya Gordon (Sunrise Sting) were on the Florida 2000 roster for the 2017 US Youth Soccer ODP Championships.
Hensley Hancuff (Oklahoma FC) and Samantha Meza (Dallas Kicks SC) were selected for the U.S. Women’s National Team Strikers and Goalkeepers Camp in December.
Hensley Hancuff (Oklahoma FC) was selected for the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team that competed in England in February.
Savianna Gomez (Beach Academy) was named to the 2016 NSCAA Youth Girls All-America Team.