Playoff winners decided at US Youth Soccer National League N.C. event
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The US Youth Soccer National League Greensboro, N.C. event came to an exciting conclusion on Sunday.
Teams from around the country competed in their third and final games of the US Youth Soccer National League Playoffs and USYS National League Showcase Series. Games took place at BB&T Soccer Complex at Bryan Park and Truist Sports Park in the Greensboro, N.C., area.
Ten teams earned advancement to the 2021 USYS National Championships by winning their Playoff groups, as National League Greensboro featured teams in the 15U-19U Boys age groups that competed in the Playoffs.
After four teams clinched group titles on Saturday, six more sides punched their tickets to the National Championships thanks to Sunday’s results. For some, including 17U Real Jersey FC 2004 (NJ), the last day of play presented a must-win situation.
“Losing the first game in this kind of format was tough, but I knew we could persevere. You never know what will happen, and we were able to get it done,” Real Jersey coach Jon Kopytko said following his team’s dominant performance on Sunday that saw it clinch the 17U Boys Group C title. “There are lot of tough teams. Everybody thinks they can win and have the confidence that they can win. At the end of the day, the toughest team comes out, and I think our boys showed that this week.”
Real Jersey managed to capture two Playoff group titles as a club, as its 15U side also finished on top of Group C. Real Jersey 2004 will now move on to the National Championships, where it will look to defend the title it won in 2019. The same can be said for 16U Libertyville FC 1974 Elite 05 (IL), which is returning to Nationals after securing a first-place finish in 16U Boys Group C.
The Illinois side used stout defense to keep three clean sheets in Greensboro — allowing it to edge Olympiacos FC Academy B05 (CA-S) in goal differential in a very close Group C race. With so little separating the teams, FC 1974 Director of Coaching Srgjan Smileski said the team expected every goal to play into who finished on top.
“Our group had amazing teams, and we knew it was going to come down to the last game. We set up a goal to not lose any of the games because it would go to the last day of the event,” Smileski said. “It was going to be hard football all weekend, and that’s how it happened. Any team in this group, if it made it, would have been well deserved to represent their state at Nationals. We’re lucky that our boys did it again and will go there to represent our club.”
2021 USYS National Championships | Qualifiers via the National League Playoffs*
Group C – Real Jersey FC 2006 (NJ)
Group D – FC Europa 2006 Elite (PA-E)
Group C – Libertyville FC 1974 Elite 05 (IL)
Group D – Santa Clara Sporting 05 Green (CA-N)
Group C – Real Jersey FC 2004 (NJ)
Group D – PA Dominion FC 2004 Boys (PA-E)
Group C – Bethesda Blue 03 (MD)
Group D – Baltimore Celtic 2003 Premier (MD)
Group C – LVU-FPA 2002 (PA-E)
Group D – Strikers Miami (FL)
*This list contains only the teams that qualified during National League Greensboro. View previous qualifiers here.
Teams that qualified for the National Championships during this weekend’s Playoffs join the 16 teams who won their Playoff groups during National League North Carolina. The 2020-21 National League Playoffs will conclude when the remaining groups compete March 19-21 at National League Orlando.
A look back at Saturday’s action in the National League Playoffs…
In a must-win situation, Real Jersey FC 2006 (NJ) came away with a 2-1 victory in a close game against Raiders FC 2006 (IL) to overtake the Illinois side for first place in Group C — helping Real to punch its ticket to Nationals.
In Group D, FC Europa 2006 Boys Elite (PA-E) bounced back from a close loss in its opener to post two straight shutout wins. Coupled with a draw in the other group game on Sunday, the Eastern PA side’s second win of the weekend allowed it to finish on top of the standings.
Libertyville FC 1974 Elite 05 (IL) held a minimal lead over Olympiacos FC Academy B05 (CA-S) in Group C entering Sunday, thanks to a slight edge in goal differential. The Illinois side posted a 2-0 victory — capping a weekend of clean sheets — to maintain that edge and finish in first place. It will now look to defend the National Championship it won in 2019 when hit heads back to Nationals this summer.
After clinching the Group D title on Saturday, Santa Clara Sporting 05B Green (CA-N) finished its strong event with a 2-0 win on Sunday.
After dropping its opener on Friday, 2019 National Champ Real Jersey FC 2004 (NJ) fought back to win Group C. It capped its weekend with a dominant victory in a must-win situation against previous group leader CUP 04 Gold (OH-S), and Real Jersey will return to Nationals this summer looking to claim another title.
PA Dominion FC 2004 (PA-E) secured the Group D title on Saturday, and it finished as the lone unbeaten team in the group following a draw on Sunday.
After clinching the Group C title on Saturday, Bethesda Blue 03 (MD) capped a perfect 3-0-0 weekend with a 4-0 win on Sunday.
In Group D, Baltimore Celtic 2003 Premier (MD) didn’t leave anything to chance, as it earned a 2-1 win against Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals 03 Black (PA-E). That result allowed Celtic to maintain its lead atop the standings and finish in first place to punch its ticket to Nationals.
In Group C, LVU-FPA 2002 Boys (PA-E) and Michigan Jaguars 2002 Green (MI) exhausted all tiebreakers after they each won on Sunday — resulting in kicks from the mark to decide the group winner. After a lengthy shootout, LVU prevailed to claim the Group C title and move on to Nationals — where it will look to win the club’s third McGuire Cup in the last nine years.
Strikers Miami (FL) clinched the Group D title on Saturday, before falling, 3-1, to Collierville SA 02 Lobos Rush Premier (TN) to close out the weekend.
The National League operates its primary league play across 13 Conferences that operate at a multi-state tier and provide high-level competition at a targeted local level, as well as a pathway for advancement into the regional and national stages of the USYS National Championship Series. The new National League Showcase Series and National League Playoffs represent the national tier of the National League, providing a platform for teams to compete in unique matches against uncommon opponents.
For more information on the National League and each of its competitions, including the National League Playoffs, click here.