Last month’s US Youth Soccer Region IV Olympic Development Program (ODP) Championships in Phoenix were billed as 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 the semifinals, then a final.
It ended up being — as usual — a showcase for Washington Youth Soccer, Cal-South and Cal-North. The three regional powerhouses combined to fill more than half of the available slots in the semi-final round, and 16 of the 20 spots in finals, with only Utah (2 finalists), Hawaii (1) and Arizona (1) able to break through. Washington Youth Soccer sent seven of its 10 teams through to the semi-final round (second only to Cal-South) and qualified a further three of those for finals, a total matched only by the two California state associations. The events is a staple for scouts from collegiate, Regional ODP, National Team and professional programs.
“The ODP Championships are different than just any club tournament because you’re representing your state, and the top players from every club have to come together to play with a group they’re not used to. I think that attracts college scouts because they want to see how players can perform in a different environment,” stated Washington EPD 1999 Girls Coach Malia Arrant. “With their club teams, players are very comfortable and know what to expect from their teammates and coaches. In the EPD/ODP program, these scouts want to see how players react and adjust to a different environment and maybe even a different position. That’s how it will be when these players move on to the Regional Team, National Team or college, and coaches want to know they’re prepared.”
Washington's teams are comprised of players selected from the state pools in Washington Youth Soccer's Elite Player Development (EPD) program, an 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 some of the top coaching staffs in the state to maximize their development and training opportunities. Since creating EPD, Washington Youth Soccer's teams have excelled at Regionals, winning seven Region IV ODP titles and ranking second only to Cal-South in total wins, and number of teams advancing to semi-finals and finals.
Of particular note was the performance of girls '98 forward Sophia Viviano, who led all scorers in her age group with six goals in just four games, leading the '98 squad to a 3-1 overall record and a second-place finish. Also of note were the 2000 girls, who finished the group stage 2-0-1 with a remarkable 13-1 goals for-against ratio, before dropping a hard-fought 2-0 match to Cal-South in the semi-final round.
“I feel honored to coach such a talented, driven group of individuals this week at the ODP Championships,” said Scott Ford, Washington EPD 2000 Girls Coach. “To see the commitment these girls put into being the best possible soccer player they can be and the passion and heart they put into wearing the Washington jersey is unlike anything I’ve experienced. These girls get an outstanding experience, maturing and understanding the importance of the details to perform at their full potential in next game. They get fantastic exposure. But for me, it’s the friendships and life lessons they learn that stands out.”
For more game action, 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.