Last month’s US Youth Soccer Region IV Olympic Development Program (ODP) Championships was a showcase for the top competitive players in the 14 state associations that make up Region IV — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Cal-North and Cal-South. Teams play a round-robin format Friday through Saturday, with the top teams advancing to Sunday’s semifinals, then a final.
Washington Youth Soccer Elite Player Development (EPD) has made a name for itself over the past five years, pushing Region IV heavyweight Cal-South for regional titles. Once again, what began as a showcase for 14 state associations, though, wound up being a showcase primarily for just two — Washington Youth Soccer, and Cal-South, who combined to claim 14 of the 20 available spots in age-group finals. Three other Washington Youth Soccer EPD teams reached the semifinal stage, meaning out of the 10 Washington teams, seven reached the semifinals.
“Two things stood out to me,” commented Washington Youth Soccer Director of Coaching Education Shannon Murray. “First, the technical demands that are required at this level. The pace of play and the pressure is high here, and we hope that our players can take this back to their club environments and continue to raise the level of their everyday training atmosphere. Second, the experience of representing Washington. This state is a special place to grow up playing soccer. I grew up here and I am a product of the ODP/EPD system. Most of our staff are a product of this system. Most of the opportunities that have come our way are a result of our time in this system. The opportunity to play in front of National, Regional, professional and college scouts and represent where you are from is something that I hope all our players will remember for years."
Of particular strength were Washington’s five boys teams, four of which reached the final game before falling to Cal-South. Both Washington’s ‘99 Boys — the defending Region IV ODP champions — and ‘01 boys reached the finals unbeaten, going a combined 6-0-1 in preliminary and semifinal games
Also of note was the individual effort of Eastside FC forward Peyton Chick, who shared the age-group lead with three goals for the ’98 girls, who tied each of their round-robin games before earning a pair of wins in consolation-round play.
Washington's teams are comprised of players selected from the state pools in Washington Youth Soccer's Elite Player Development (EPD) program, ant effort of Washington Youth Soccer to further develop the elite players in Washington State. Players in the EPD program are selected to train and compete with other highly skilled players and the top coaching staffs in the state to maximize their development and training opportunities.
In the last five years, seven Washington Youth Soccer EPD teams have brought home regional ODP titles — second-most among Region IV states — with many more reaching the final stage.
“I think the ODP Championships is one of my favorite events because it’s different than club tournaments that players go to all the time," said '99 girls coach Malia Arrant. "[The players] get a chance to play with different players, different coaches, and they get to represent Washington, which is a unique experience. They’re all together and even though they come from different clubs, they get to bond together and represent their state.”
Read the daily recaps from Phoenix, or view full results from last month’s championships. To learn more about the Washington Youth Soccer Elite Player Development program, visit WashingtonYouthSoccer.org.
To view more photos from the Region IV ODP Championships, visit the Washington Youth Soccer page on Faecbook!