Five teams clinch US Youth Soccer National Championship bids in National League play
Day 2 of 3 complete
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Via US Youth Soccer) — The US Youth Soccer National League Under-14, Under-15, Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 Boys continued league play Saturday at Heritage Park in Henderson, Nev., alongside the 2015 Players Showcase. The boys will wrap up their season on Sunday, as the standings will be solidified and the final tickets to the US Youth Soccer National Championships will be secured.
After two berths to the National Championships were determined Friday, another five teams secured their ticket to Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday. However, the top of most group standings are still in question, meaning five National League division titles will decided on the season’s final day. Aside from earning an automatic ticket to the 2015 US Youth Soccer National Championships, teams in the Under-14, Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 age groups are also vying for a top-two finish to earn their automatic return to the league in the 2015-16 National League season.
“National League for us as a club has been the ultimate league. It’s the single most important thing that we have in our program,” said Nuno Piteira, whose Under-14 GSA 01 Premier (GA) side is still in the hunt for a division title. “We’ve had two teams at Nationals the last five years in a row. There’s a culture, there’s a history, and that is directly connected to National League play. Most of our teams who have qualified have come out of the National League. They understand what’s at stake, the importance of this league and the competition that it brings.”
Many college coaches have been on hand through the first two days of play to watch the teams compete for a chance to punch their tickets to the National Championships in Tulsa, Okla. What spectators have seen is some of the most competitive games and division races in National League history.
Five teams had chances to play their way to division titles on Saturday, but only one — Under-15 Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) — managed to accomplish the feat. Meanwhile, the results in the Under-18 Blue Division guaranteed CUP Gold 96/97 (OH-S), which finished its season in December, a first-place finish.
Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) punched a ticket to its fifth straight National Championships with a 3-0 win on Saturday that clinched a second-place finish in the Under-18 Red Division. Meanwhile, Under-14 Baltimore Celtic Dynasty (MD), Under-15 United FA 00 Premier (GA) and Under-17 Santa Barbara SC White (CA-S) all solidified top-two division finishes and berths to Nationals.
But for many of the teams, Sunday’s results will decide whether they have a place in the field this summer in Tulsa. Thanks to a 3-1 win on Saturday, GSA is one of the teams in position to solidify a top-two finish. Piteira said his team is excited for the opportunity, and the players know what it means just to step on the field for these games.
“There’s nothing given here, in terms of, ‘Oh, you’re wonderful. You’re great. Come here and play in the National League,’” Piteira said. “No. Every year, they understand that, like most things in life that are worthwhile, you have to earn it. I think there’s something really meaningful when you step on the field and know you got there, not because you were given something, but because you earned that thing with everything you had.”
2015 US Youth Soccer National Championship Qualifiers via National League
Red: Baltimore Celtic Dynasty (MD)*
Blue Champion: Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S)*
Blue Runner-up: United FA 00 Premier (GA)*
Red Champion: South Carolina United FC 99 Elite (SC)
Blue Champion: SDFC Rangers (NJ)
Red: Penn Fusion 98 (PA-E)
Blue: Santa Barbara SC White (CA-S)*
Blue: Arlington Impact Red (VA)
Red: Sunrise Elite 97/98 (FL)
Blue Champion: CUP Gold 96/97 (OH-S)
Red Champion: FC Dallas 97 Premier (TX-N)
Red Runner-up: Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S)*
National League Boys action continues Sunday, March 15 at Heritage Park with games at 7:30 a.m., 9:20 a.m. and 11:10 a.m. PT.
National League teams earn their place in the league based on a proven track record of success in US Youth Soccer regional and national competitions and are among the nation’s best. Competing for a league title and a spot in the US Youth Soccer National Championships, each and every game will play into who represents the National League this summer in Tulsa, Okla.
Some highlights from Saturday’s matches…
A strong second-half effort helped GSA 01 Premier (GA) pick up a crucial 3-1 win over Downtown LVSC 01 Academy (NV) in Under-14 Blue Divisional play. Kendall Edwards put GSA up shortly after half when he followed his own shot and hit it into an open net. Edwards was taken down in the box shortly after, and Thomas Toney converted the ensuing penalty kick to double the lead. Edwards then added a third GSA goal when he flicked a header over the keeper to extend his side’s advantage. LVSC, which had a chance to clinch a top-two finish, got on the board when Luis Morales placed his shot inside the far post. That’s as close as it got, as GSA held on for the win, which leaves the division wide open heading into the final day.
A point from a scoreless draw was enough to help Baltimore Celtic Dynasty (MD) punch its ticket to the National Championships. The Under-14 Red Division side couldn’t break through against LFSC Geerling White (MO), but Celtic’s defense stood up to the task to help Baltimore earn a point from the contest. LFSC is still alive for a second-place finish, while Baltimore looks to secure the division title on Sunday.
A 3-1 win over Alliance ASC Pro 18 (MI) helped Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) win the Under-15 Blue Division. Jose Ortiz found the back of the net in the 11th minute to give Fullerton the advantage, but Alliance’s Eric Conerty responded later in the half to level the score at 1-1. The Cal South side regained its lead on a 50th-minute strike by Eduardo Chaires, and Oliver Meza added an insurance goal to cap the 3-1 victory.
In the Under-15 Red Division, South Carolina United FC 99 Elite (SC) has clinched the title, and Real Colorado National 99/00 (CO) must win on Sunday to finish in second place.
After securing a top-two finish on Friday, Penn Fusion 98 (PA-E) looked to wrap up the Under-16 Red Division on Saturday against Albion SC White (CA-S). Needing just a draw to clinch the group title, Penn Fusion went into half with the game scoreless. In the 52nd minute, Albion’s Andrew Forth opened the scoring when he found the back of the net. That proved to be the game-winner, as Albion came away with the victory and put Penn Fusion’s title hopes on hold.
SDFC Rangers (NJ) has clinched the Under-16 Blue Division, but the second spot is still up for grabs.
After having Ohio Premier Green (OH-S) end its quest for a third straight National title in last year’s National Championship semifinals, Santa Barbara SC White (CA-S) provided a little payback in their Under-17 Blue Division matchup on Saturday. The Cal South side erupted for a 6-2 win that guaranteed it a top-two finish and a spot at Nationals. Brandon Sanchez and Benjamin Garcia scored first-half goals for Santa Barbara, and Dennis Cole, Sahid Conteh, Chairat Puengrod and Michael Hawker netted second-half tallies. OP’s Khalid Hunter scored both of his side’s goals against the determined Santa Barbara side, which has a chance to claim the division title on Sunday.
With a chance to punch its ticket back to Nationals, Baltimore Celtic 97/98 (MD) came up just short in its Under-17 Red Division matchup with Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S). Celtic jumped in front in the 19th minute on a Michael DeShields strike, but Fullerton responded shortly after when Mason Mitzner found the back of the net. The Cal South side took the lead in the 51st minute, as Rene Santillan beat the keeper. Fullerton held off late Baltimore pressure to take the win, but Baltimore still has an edge in the division standings entering the final day of play.
LVSA 97 Red (NV) had a chance to secure a top-two finish in the Under-18 Blue Division with a win, but it needed a comeback to salvage a 3-3 draw against FC Golden State White (CA-S). FC Golden State took a two-goal lead within the first five minutes on strikes from Berj Ghazarian and Marcos Bueno. LVSA’s Nolan Sherwood pulled his side within one when he placed his shot inside the far post, but Ghazarian extended the lead back to two when he hit a half-volley that dipped under the bar. The first-half action continued, and LVSA equalized the score on goals from Dominic Damato and Miles Mcrae. The defenses stiffened after halftime, and the match ended in a 3-3 tie.
Fullerton Rangers 96 White (CA-S) secured a second-place finish in the Under-18 Red Division with a 3-0 win Saturday against Classics Eagles 96/97 Red (OH-S). The Cal South side struck twice in the opening five minutes, as Alan Garcia and Andrew Guerrero each found the back of the net. Fullerton maintained that advantage until Carlos Troncoso was able to extend the lead to 3-0 with a strike in the 64th minute. The Rangers’ 3-0 victory means they will be heading to the National Championships for the fifth time in as many years.