US Youth Soccer National League Boys conclude season in Las Vegas
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 completed their third and final day of matches at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas, Nev., alongside the 2016 Players Showcase. Sunday marked the final day of the 2015-16 boys 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 2015-16 season was an exciting one for the boys, as three titles were decided on the final day of play. The top two finishers per division earned a place at this summer’s US Youth Soccer National Championships, July 25-31 in Frisco, Texas, and several sides in the Under-14, Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 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.
Three teams secured a berth to the 2016 National Championships on Sunday, as each and every minute of the season went into determining their fate. One such team was Under-14 South Carolina United FC 01 Elite (SC), which needed to hold on for a draw to secure a second-place finish in the Blue Division and punch its ticket to Nationals. South Carolina coach Jody McArthur said each game of the season provided a challenge that helped his players grow.
“The experience for our players and talent that we face is such that every decision matters. Every touch of the ball, piece of technique and mental toughness comes into play,” McArthur said. “It comes down to either a moment of brilliance or a mistake when you get punished. When you’re playing this type of caliber, it really forces us to rise and improve, and it’s really been brilliant.”
The 2015-16 boys’ season featured several record performances. Two teams — Under-14 Baltimore Darby 01/02 (MD) and Under-15 CFA Raiders (IL) — recorded 7-0-0 records. Baltimore did so by tying the record for team goals in a season with 24. Joining Baltimore with 24 total goals scored was Under-16 La Roca South CS 99/00 Premier (UT), which won the Under-16 Blue Division.
On the other side of the field, Under-14 Valparaiso United Futbol 02 JG (AZ) became just the third boys team in National League history to go an entire season without conceding a goal.
For the 20 teams who finished in the top two in their divisions, the focus can now begin to turn to the National Championships in Frisco, Texas. Under-18 Red Division winner Santa Barbara SC White (CA-S) will be making its fifth appearance at Nationals, and coach Rudy Ybarra said the National League competition serves as a good preparation for what his team will face this summer.
“Playing teams from different parts of the country and region is so important,” Ybarra said of the National League. “Every team that we’ve played is well prepared. You see they’re well-coached, well-organized and have done well in their own states and region.
“It’s just fantastic for us to get the opportunity to play them because it’s a quality league. It’s the best teams in the country and we get to play against them, so it helps us prepare [for the National Championships].”
2016 US Youth Soccer National Championship Qualifiers via National League
National League action continues Friday, March 18, as 48 girls teams kick off their final weekend of league play at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in Las Vegas, Nev.
Some highlights from Sunday’s matches…
A pair of teams from the Carolinas met on Sunday in an Under-14 Blue Division matchup to determine who would earn an automatic berth to the National Championships. Needing a win to advance to Nationals, CASL 01 Red (NC) generated some heavy pressure in the second half against South Carolina United FC 01 Elite (SC) with the game still scoreless. Knowing it had a three-point advantage in the standings, South Carolina focused on staying compact defensively and threatened the CASL net on a few counter attacks as it searched for a clinching goal. In the end, neither side managed to break the deadlock, as South Carolina held on to secure a second-place finish and a place at Nationals.
A scoreless draw helped Valparaiso United Futbol 02 JG (AZ) hold on to earn the Under-14 Red Division title. The Arizona side became just the third team in National League history to go a full season without conceding a goal, as it prevented SLA Nomads 01 (CA-S) from getting on the scoresheet on Sunday. The draw not only sealed an undefeated season for Valparaiso, but it capped a successful campaign for the Nomads, who hung on to second place in the group thanks to a draw between Concorde Fire Central Elite (GA) and Solar Chelsea 02 Red (TX-N). Both Valparaiso and Nomads will be heading to Frisco, Texas, for this summer’s National Championships.
In the Under-15 Blue Division, United FA 01 Premier (GA) secured the division title, while McLean 00 Green (VA) finished in second place. CFA Raiders (IL) recorded a 7-0-0 record en route to the Under-15 Red Division title, and Sparta 01 JK (UT) earned 15 points to finish as the runner-up.
La Roca South CS 99/00 Premier (UT) earned a 2-1 win against Fullerton Rangers White (CA-S) on Sunday to claim the Under-16 Blue Division title. La Roca keeper JD Myers made a diving save to deny an early Fullerton penalty kick, as the Cal South side had its share of chances in the early minutes of the game. La Roca managed to grab an advantage in the 31st minute, as Agustin Asensio followed up his own shot and hit the rebound into an open net. Fullerton equalized in the 77th minute when Santiago Beningazza converted a penalty kick, but the Utah side scored a stoppage time winner when Nathan Mumford found the back of the net. The 2-1 victory gave La Roca the division championship, while Fullerton advanced to Nationals as the group runner-up.
After picking up four points in its first two games in Las Vegas, Dallas Texans 00 Red (TX-N) came up just short of second place in the Under-16 Red Division, as it fell, 1-0, to Baltimore Celtic SC Christos (MD) on Sunday. The Texans needed a win to move into second, but they conceded an early lead when Drew Campbell found the back of the net to put Baltimore up, 1-0. The game went back and forth for much of the 80 minutes, as Dallas looked to create the couple of goals it needed to pick up the necessary victory. However, Baltimore remained composed and held on for the shutout.
Defending National Champion Baltimore Celtic 98/99 (MD) won the Under-17 Blue Division title, while Sporting St. Croix (MN) earned a trip back to Nationals by finishing second in the group. Solar Chelsea Red 99 (TX-N) wrapped up the Under-17 Red Division title in Orlando, where Loudoun 98 Red (VA) also secured a second-place finish.
The top two spots in the Under-18 Blue Division were won by teams who played in Orlando, as Lehigh Valley United 97 (PA-E) took the title and Arlington Impact Red (VA) finished second.
A pair of Cal South sides met on Sunday to determine the winner of the Under-18 Red Division. Santa Barbara SC White (CA-S), needing just a draw for the title, jumped in front in of FC Golden State Platinum (CA-S) in the 25th minute when Chairat Puengrod got free in a crowded penalty area and hit a low drive past the keeper. Golden State generated several good looks in the second half and equalized in the 76th minute on a Matheus Freitas goal. Golden State nearly grabbed the lead a few minutes later, but Santa Barbara keeper Edward Delgado saved and held a well-taken penalty kick. Santa Barbara cleared a late corner kick off the line to preserve the draw and earn the title. Golden State — who, like Santa Barbara, did not lose a game this season — will also head to Nationals as the Red Division runner-up.