While the North American soccer eyes will be looking toward Toronto on the men’s side for the Dallas-Colorado MLS Cup Final and toward Italy for the US women’s first-leg playoff contest for the final Women’s World Cup berth, 137 teams from the United States and Canada will take to the field in Tampa this week to compete for 10 youth championships.
It is easy to forget, but shouldn’t be overlooked; especially in a week in which MLS youth development has become center stage again with the announcement of its expanding ideology regarding the training of youth – pioneered by the way in the Super Y-League by several of its pioneering clubs. Again, teams bearing the names of MLS and USL clubs will be competing against their peers for boys and girls titles from U13 to U17.
On the boys’ side, 11 of the 80 teams competing enter the weekend with unbeaten records while 12 of the 57 girls’ teams arrive without a loss. Five of those girls teams are perfect (U13 Washington Freedom 10-0-0, U13 Kings Soccer Academy 10-0-0, U14 West Pines United 8-0-0, U15 Seacoast United 12-0-0 and U17 Ottawa Fury 8-0-0) while every squad playing for boys titles have at least one flaw on their campaign. The best among them, however, are five teams with a single draw, including three from the same Alliance Academy club (U13 Alliance Academy 6-1-0, U14 Coquitlam 11-1-0, U15 TSF Academy 15-1-0, U15 Alliance Academy 9-1-0 and U16 Alliance Academy 7-1-0). The U17 Boys bracket is the lone tournament of the 10 without an unbeaten club in the competition, but local side Tampa Bay Premier are the lone team that missed out on a victory only once on the season with a 9-0-1 record.
While two American clubs invade the north to square off for the MLS title, 22 Canadian teams representing nine clubs cross the border in the opposite direction in the quest of their own crowns. The Ottawa Fury have the largest presence with six teams playing in the tournament with Coquitlam Metro-Ford SC bringing five as part of a large contingent representing the greater Vancouver area. The Toronto Lynx Jrs have three teams in the running with Revolution FC (1), Mountain FC (2), West Coast Capitals (2), Coastal FC (1), Abbotsford Mariners (1) and London Gryphons (1) rounding out the Canadian clubs.
With only one champion in the first nine editions of the SYL Finals (U13B Vancouver Whitecaps in 2004), the Canadian representatives have done better of late with three champions in the past two years. Mountain FC won the U15 Boys title in 2008 and Coastal FC won both the U16 Boys and Girls brackets a year ago.