FRISCO, Texas (Dec. 2, 2013) —
The seventh season of US Youth Soccer National League
play got underway Nov. 21 when all 80 boys teams convened in Wilson, N.C. After a break for the holidays, it’s the girls’ turn, as 80 teams in the Under-14 through Under-18 age groups also meet Dec. 5-8 in North Carolina to begin their season.
With this year’s addition of the Under-14 age group to the field, the 2013-14 National League season brings even more opportunities to witness outstanding play from some of the nation’s best teams and players
. The girls teams in the league this year feature several squads that have proven themselves at the highest level, as every age group includes its defending National Champion.
The correlation between playing in the National League and success at the US Youth Soccer National Championships was as strong as ever on the girls’ side in 2012-13. Each of the eight teams in the Under-15 through Under-18 National finals were squads that competed in the National League. One of those teams, Cleveland United White (OH-N), claimed the National title after a dominating defensive performance in the National League, which saw the Ohio side tie the record for least goals allowed in a season — conceding just once while going 6-0-1 in the league.
Other National League teams that went on to win 2013 National Championships were Eclipse Elite Black 97-98 (IL), DMCV Sharks Elite (CA-S) and Team Chicago Academy Botafogo (IL), which prior to claiming the National title became just the third girls team to finish its National League season a perfect 7-0-0.
DMCV Sharks head coach Felicia Kappes said any National League squad is capable of making a run at a National Championship, given the depth of the field. With so many quality teams, that also means there are a number of talented individuals in the league who have the ability to continue playing at the next level.
"At this level, the teams have already proven themselves because they have to qualify for the National League," Kappes said. "The teams and players have already established themselves. Many of the players in the league, if they want to play at the Division I level, they can, and most college teams are looking at these types of players."
This season, Legends FC (CA-S) will have a good shot to make history. Entering the year with five league titles as a club, Legends FC needs just one more division title to break its current tie with Dallas Texans (N-TX). Legends and the Texas side each have five total National League division titles, and with a Legends team in each age group this season, there will be several chances to claim more.
Tophat Soccer Club (GA) also has multiple teams in the National League this year, and its Director of Coaching, Troy Garner, knows winning a division title won’t be an easy task. Garner said competing in the National League gives players an opportunity to see different styles of play from the various regions of the country. This challenges players to make decisions and adjustments on the field, which Garner said will be a "huge benefit" in terms of developing both physically and mentally.
With bids to the National Championships on the line, Garner said his teams, like every other National League squad, are looking forward to getting the season underway and competing against the nation’s top teams.
"None of the teams were given anything. They’ve all performed in one way or another to show they belong in a group that includes the nation’s best," Garner said. "It’s good for us because we get to play the teams from out West, the teams from the Northeast; good quality competition. It only aids in player development and team development if we play against very high-level teams in a competitive environment where the games mean something."
For a preview of each age group...