MLS NEXT Cup champions and individual award winners decided
The inaugural NEXT Cup Champions were crowned on Friday and Saturday night, concluding a 10-month long regular season and week-long MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase event in the Dallas area.
U15 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs
Champion: Real Salt Lake Academy
Runner-Up: Philadelphia Union Academy
The Real Salt Lake Academy secured the Championship for the U15 division by defeating the Philadelphia Union Academy 2-0 on Friday night. RSL Captain Jude Wellings opened the scoring in the 15th minute, collecting a backpass from Izahi Amparo before calmly slotting the ball into the unmarked goal to take the early 1-0 lead. Evan Pickering doubled the lead when he headed home an Angel Morales corner kick in the 65th minute for the Claret and Cobalt and goalkeeper Fernando Delgado made multiple key saves in the match to solidify the Championship.
U15 Individual Awards:
• Golden Boot: Axel Kei (Real Salt Lake)
• Best Goalkeeper: Andrew Rick (Philadelphia Union)
• Golden Ball: Cruz Medina (San Jose Earthquakes)
U16 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs
Champion: Weston FC
Runner-up: Tampa Bay United
Weston FC (Weston, FL) hoisted the MLS NEXT Cup in the U16 age group by defeating Tampa Bay United in a five-goal thriller on Friday. Weston FC opened the scoring with three first half goals including a goal and an assist from playmaker Benjamin Cremaschi. Tampa Bay United and midfielder Isaiah Wilson came out of the halftime intermission with conviction and the sixteen-year-old struck a 35-yard golazo to get his team back in contention. Tampa Bay United added a second goal in the 72nd minute but ultimately fell 3-2 in the U16 MLS NEXT Cup despite a man up advantage for the final 40-minutes of the match.
U16 Individual Awards:
• Golden Boot: Chase Vazquez (Weston FC) and Luke Van Heukelum (Sockers FC)
• Best Goalkeeper: Philip Falcon (Tampa Bay United)
• Golden Ball: Benjamin Cremaschi (Weston FC)
U17 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs
Champion: Orlando City SC Academy
Orlando City SC Academy and PDA (Somerset, NJ) saw a number of chances throughout the 90-minute match though regulation ended in a 0-0 draw. One of the best chances came for Orlando City winger Alex Freeman, who found a pocket of space to get a shot off, but his shot smashed straight into the post and back into play. While the post was unforgiving in regulation for Freeman, Orlando City were the benefactors during penalty kicks as Mustapha Sowe’s opening PK was kept out of the back of the net by the crossbar. Orlando City SC Academy went on to score three consecutive penalty kicks (Alejandro Nasato, Owen VanMarter, Ian Silva) and goalkeeper Isaac Delgado notched two saves during the shootout with his game-winning penalty kick stop against PDA’s Yuxuan Yang.
U17 Individual Awards:
• Golden Boot: Tarik Scott (FC Dallas)
• Best Goalkeeper: Rafael Ponce de Leon (PDA)
• Golden Ball: Christopher Olney Jr. (PDA)
U19 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs
Champion: Chicago Fire FC Academy
Runner-up: Solar SC
Chicago Fire SC defeated Solar SC (Allen, TX) 1-0 on Saturday night. The lone-goal came from Missael Rodriguez in the 80th minute. The Chicago Fire attacker showed great awareness when, back-to-goal, managed to flick a no-look header to the far post and out of the keeper’s reach to secure the Championship for his team. Rodriguez also earned the Golden Boot for the U19 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs for most goals scored in the tournament. Rodriguez tallied six goals in five matches.
U19 Individual Awards:
• Golden Boot: Missael Rodriguez (Chicago Fire SC)
• Best Goalkeeper: Martin Dominguez (Solar SC)
• Golden Ball: Sergio Oregel Jr. (Chicago Fire SC)