2013-2014 US Youth Soccer National League Girls resume play in Orlando, Fla.
ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 31, 2013)
— The 2013-2014 US Youth Soccer National League
Girls resumed league play Tuesday, as 32 of the 80 teams competed at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase.
The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels. In addition to recruiting opportunities, the top two finishers from each division (Blue and Red) will earn a ticket to the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships
, making each match valuable to the teams’ fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
The competitiveness of the National League has shown so far this season, as there has yet to be a team to clinch a top two finish and berth in the National Championships. However, Eclipse Elite Black 97-98 (IL) is now close to solidifying a ticket to Nationals after it squeaked out a 3-2 win against MRM Coyotes (MD) in Under-16 Blue Division play on Tuesday.
The two former National Champions battled until the game’s final seconds, with the Coyotes creating several chances, including a dangerous free kick, in an effort to equalize the score. Eclipse coach Rory Dames said each team had missed opportunities in the match, and he felt "very fortunate" that his side was able to come away with the three points for the win.
"Give them credit because they came out and got all over us," Dames said of the Coyotes. "They missed two or three chances that they probably usually don’t miss in the first 20 minutes. Really, the second time we got into their end and were dangerous, we scored, which settled us down a bit. We had a good response to their tying goal, but on the day we were probably second best."
The win puts Eclipse in a very good position to clinch a top-two finish in the division on Wednesday, but with the top four teams in the division all playing in Orlando, anything could happen during the next two days.
Another intriguing division race is unfolding in a very crowded Under-17 Blue Division, with five teams currently sitting at nine points in the standings. VSA Heat 96 Blue (VA) earned a key 2-0 victory over NSA Jaguars (IL) to add itself to the group of teams atop the division. NSA also has three wins and nine points, while a trio of teams that don’t resume play until the games in March — DMCV Sharks Elite (CA-S), Legends FC 96 (CA-S), and Beach FC 17 Academy (CA-S) — each have nine points with three games left to play.
"If we didn’t get a result here, we would have been out of it," VSA coach Steve Smith said. "It’s very important. You have the last two National Champions. It’s a tight group. It’s just a tough group from top to bottom. We knew we had to get a result if wanted to have a chance to go to Nationals."
While his team is aiming for one of the automatic berths to Nationals, Smith said the National League experience doesn’t just offer an avenue to win a championship — it also helps prepare the players for the next level of their careers.
"These are the teams we want to play," Smith said. "It gets us ready to be successful, not only in the National League, but when the girls move on to college. It’s super competitive. Every game means something, and you have to be consistent and play hard every day."
The National League teams that do not compete in Orlando, including all Under-14 squads, will complete their season at the Players College Showcase in Las Vegas — with boys games held March 14-16 and girls games played March 21-23.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Premier League, Midwest Regional League, Region III Premier League and Far West Regional League). The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels.
Some highlights from Tuesday’s matches…
Futura Academy Forte (MO) and BRYC 98 Elite (VA) currently sit in first and second, respectively, in the Under-15 Blue Division after playing to 2-2 tie on Tuesday. Forte’s Tess Rellihan and BRYC’s Lillian Weber exchanged first-half goals to send the contest to halftime tied at 1-1. Rellihan later ran down a bouncing ball in the 52nd minute and slid her shot inside the left post to give her side the lead. Once again, Weber responded for BRYC when she knocked in a loose ball off of a corner kick in the 68th minute to tie the game. That’s how the match ended, as the teams split the points. With defending National Champion Eastside FC 98 Red (WA) still to play its final games in Las Vegas, it looks like the division title will not be settled until March.
Libertyville FC 1974 (IL) entered Tuesday tied for second in the Under-15 Red Division, but it ran into a determined Jacksonville FC 98-99 Elite (FL) side playing in its home state. After Jacksonville took the lead on an own goal, Leah Ferlin doubled its advantage with a strike in the 17th minute. Alliyah Parker pulled Libertyville within a goal with a tally in the 26th minute, but Madison Murnin extended the Florida side’s lead back to two when she scored just before halftime. Emily Blackwell scored a late goal for Libertyville, but it wasn’t enough as Jacksonville held on for the 3-2 win.
With the top four teams in the Under-16 Blue Division all playing in Orlando, this week’s games will likely decide who qualifies for the National Championships. Entering Tuesday in fourth place, Waza FC 98 Jrs. (MI) came away with a key result by defeating Tophat 16 Gold (GA), 1-0. The two sides remained deadlocked in a scoreless game until the contest’s final minute. That’s when Ryenn McAdory held off a defender and fired a shot into the upper-right corner for the game-winning goal — helping Waza jump into the thick of the race for one of the top two spots in the division.
The other Blue Division contest also came down to the final minutes, as Eclipse Elite Black 97-98 (IL) held off MRM Coyotes (MD) for a 3-2 win. After Channing Foster gave Eclipse an early lead, Emma Anderson pulled the Coyotes even with a 26th-minute strike from 20 yards away. A scramble in the box led to a Madison Navarro goal just four minutes later, which gave Eclipse the lead at halftime. U.S. Under-17 National Team player Zoe Redei extended the advantage to 3-1 in the 57th minute by tucking a shot inside the left post. The Coyotes pulled within a goal in the 87th minute when Anderson notched her second tally of the game. The Maryland side created several dangerous chances in the final minutes of the game, but couldn’t find an equalizer as Eclipse held on for the win.
VSA Heat 96 Blue (VA) picked up a key win in the Under-17 Blue Division, as it held off NSA Jaguars (IL) for a 2-0 victory. Kristin Schnurr opened the scoring when she went around the NSA goalkeeper and put her shot into an open net to give VSA an eighth-minute lead. NSA generated several good looks at goal throughout the opening half, but it couldn’t equalize. After the teams exchanged chances for much of the second half, the Heat’s Olivia Korhonen hit a powerful strike from 20 yards out into the side netting in the 89th-minute to put the game away. Both teams have nine points through five games and are in the middle of an extremely tight title race in the division.
Tophat 14 Gold (GA) kept its top-two hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Sporting BV Supersport (KS). Serenity Waters and Stephanie Krouskos each scored for Tophat in the opening 20 minutes to give their side an early 2-0 advantage. SBV responded just before halftime when Nicolette Lynch knocked in a rebound to pull her side within one. However, the Tophat defense held strong for the remainder of the match to help the Georgia side claim the 2-1 victory. Tophat will need a win Wednesday against group leader and former National Champion BRYC 95 Elite (VA) to have a chance at finishing in the top two.
National League action continues Wednesday, Jan. 1, at ESPN Wide World of Sports with games at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Complete standings, scores and schedules, including goal scorers and match information, can be found at the results page here
. Click on the score of each game for more information.