For the first time since Soccer America began its annual rankings of the Best Boys Clubs, the Dallas Texans are No. 1. They edged the Chicago Magic, first the last three years. Arsenal FC of Southern California again completed the podium.
Soccer America's Top 25 Boys Clubs
1. Dallas Texans
2. Chicago Magic
3. Arsenal FC
4. Real So Cal
5. Schulz Academy
6. FC Delco
7. Baltimore Bays
8. Sockers FC
9. Michigan Wolves
10. FC Greater Boston Bolts
11. CASL Elite
13. Solar SC
14. FC Milwaukee
15. Bethesda SC
16. Valley United
17. Team Ohio FC
18. Concorde Fire
19. Vardar SC
21. Real Colorado
22. Nomads SC
23. Scott Gallagher
25. New York Red Bulls
Soccer America selects the top 25 clubs, based on success of their teams in national youth championships over the last three years and national recognition for players (including U.S. national youth team selections, NSCAA/adidas Youth All-Americans and U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Interregional All-Stars) from these clubs in 2007.
1 DALLAS TEXANS. The Texans' 88 team, arguably the best boys club history in the history of American soccer, completed its run when it captured the 2007 (U-19) McGuire Cup for its third straight national championship. The title gave the Texans four U.S. Youth Soccer national championships in the last three years and five appearances in finals. Last year also marked the opening of the six-field Ross Stewart Soccer Complex in suburban Farmers Branch. Rising Star: Zachery Barnes, a 15-year-old midfielder in the national youth tram pool.
2 CHICAGO MAGIC. After three years at No. 1, the Magic fell to No. 2 in the boys rankings, but 2007 was still a successful year. The U-18 team won the club's 15th national title when it upset three-time defending champ Schulz Academy in the championship of the Super Y-League's North American finals. Goalie Josh Lambo, a first-round MLS SuperDraft pick, started for the USA at the Under-17 World Cup. Lambo and U-17 teammate Brendan King were both Youth All-Americans. Rising Star: Perry Kitchen is a starter on the new U-17 national team.
3 ARSENAL FC. The Southern California club, the first boys team to win three consecutive U.S. Youth Soccer championships, was thwarted in its bid to win four straight when tiny New York team Terryville Fire upset it in the 2007 U-18 finals. Later in the year, Arsenal landed teams in both the U-14 and U-15 North American finals, and both teams returned with championships. Rising Star: Defender Chris Smith, 16, was selected to participate in the U.S. U-18 national team's mega-camp in January.
4 REAL SO CAL. Real So Cal has won three straight U.S. Youth Soccer national championships at the U-14 (2005), U-15 (2006) and U-16 (2007) levels. Only the Dallas Texans and Arsenal can match that feat. The Real So Cal U-17s are off to a fast start to the 2007-08 season, having won their Coast Soccer League premier division last fall. Rising Star: Goalkeeper Josh McNeely was selected to the adidas all-star team for his play at the 2007 U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Thanksgiving Interregional.
5 SCHULZ ACADEMY. The Boca Raton, Fla., club made history when it won three straight championships at the Super Y-League finals. Schulz was shut out at the 2007 North American finals but still ranked No. 7 among SYL boys clubs. The program, headed by former Austrian pro Josef Schulz, has left a huge mark in terms of player development. It produced New York Red Bulls teen star Josmer Altidore and had four players in the U-17 residency program last fall. Rising Star: Kwese Alleyne, 15, recently attended the U-18 mega-camp.
6 FC DELCO. The Pennsylvania club, No. 1 in Soccer America's first club rankings in 2004, has won six regional titles in the last three years, though only the '06 U-15 Hammerheads reached the championship game at the national finals. Since 1992, Delco has won seven U.S. Youth Soccer national titles and played in six other championship games. It has also won a U-23 national championship. Rising Star: Quincy Thomas was picked to the '94 adidas all-star team at the 2007 U.S. Youth Soccer ODP Thanksgiving Interregional.
7 BALTIMORE BAYS. Coach Steve Nichols won two national titles with the Casa Mia Bays before moving under the Baltimore Bays umbrella. His Casa Mia Bays won U.S. Youth Soccer's U-16 national championship in 2006 and reached the final four again in 2007. The Casa Mia Bays' U-14 team stole the show, however, winning the national championship in its age group at the finals in Frisco, Texas. Rising Star: Jonathan Guzman won the adidas Golden Boot as the best player at last year's under-14 national championships.
8 SOCKERS FC. For more than two decades, the Sockers have been a national powerhouse. The Illinois club won its third U.S. Youth Soccer championship in 2005 when it captured the McGuire Cup. Their U-14 team reached the 2007 national championships. Alums include U.S. internationals Michael Bradley of Heerenveen and Jonathan Spector of West Ham United. Rising Star: Andrew Krynski, a junior at Woodstock Marian High School, scored four goals in three games at the 2007 Development Academy Nike Friendlies.
9 MICHIGAN WOLVES. Six gold stars appear within the Wolves-Hawks crest; each star represents one of their U.S. Youth Soccer national championships. The Wolves won the U-15 title at the 2007 U.S. Youth National Championships to go along with the U-16 title they captured in 1990 and U-18 title in 2003. Their sister Hawks program has also won three national championships. Rising Star: Goalkeeper Adam Grinwis, who won the Golden Glove for his play at the '07 National Championships.
10 FC GREATER BOSTON. FCGB is the lone representative from New England in this year's Top 25 boys rankings. The Bolts, who were one of the first clubs to be selected to the new U.S. Soccer Development Academy program, won a national title in 2005 and sent three teams to the upper level regional finals the last two years. The club has produced current pros Jay Heaps and Charlie Davies. Rising Star: Gideon Gyasi scored both goals in the Bolts' 2-1 win over the Clearwater Chargers at the 2007 Development Academy Nike Friendlies.
11 CASL ELITE. The Raleigh, N.C., area program, established in 1974, is one of the strongest programs in the South with strong participation in all of the national organizations (U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, U.S. Club Soccer and Super Y-League). Its U-14 team reached the 2007 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships and its U-16 team defeated Chelsea, 2-1, in the final of the Showcase division at the 2007 Disney's Soccer Showcase. Rising Star: Ryan Metts, a '92 adidas all-star selection at the 2007 ODP Interregionals.
12 PDA. The Players Development Academy of New Jersey, ranked first in the final 2007 Super Y-League Best XI, is a program with a twist. Its boys clubs are named after famous players. The U-15 boys - PDA (Henrik) Larsson - finished second at the 2007 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships. It was the second time in three years PDA had a boys team reach the championship game. Rising Star: Matthew Wiltse played on the U.S. U-15 national team at the 2007 Nike Friendlies in December.
13 SOLAR SC. The Solar U-18 team's string of Region III championships ended at three in 2007. U-18 Corben Bone went on to win Soccer America Freshman of the Year honors at Wake Forest last fall. The North Texas club's U-15 team has already clinched a berth in the 2008 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships after finishing second to the Casa Mia Bays in U.S. Youth Soccer's new National League. Rising Star: James Hickey was selected to the '94 adidas all-star team after the 2007 ODP Interregionals.
14 FC MILWAUKEE. FC Milwaukee (the former Milwaukee Kickers Nationals program) has more than 450 players in its program. The U-17s were the only team to return from the 2006 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships and recovered from a loss in their opening game to advance to the final at the 2007 championships, where they fell to Andromeda on penalty kicks. Brice Carr attended the U.S. U-17 Residency Program. Rising Star: Kevin Ferron, an all-Metro midfield selection last fall as a sophomore at Brookfield Central. 15 BETHESDA SC. The Maryland club, which started with three clubs in 1979, sponsors some 40 boys and girls teams. It has been in the Soccer America boys rankings four out of five years. It climbed to 13th last year after its United and Roadrunners won Region I titles in 2006. The Roadrunners won the 2007 Maryland U-15 championship, while United was last year's U-18 state runner-up. Rising Star: The Roadrunners' 15-year-old goalkeeper, Samir Badr, is already 6-foot-3 and considered one of the young prospects at his position.
16 VALLEY UNITED. Valley United, founded in 1989 by the merger of two Southern California clubs, the Granada Hills Soccer Club and the Valley Pride, makes its debut in the Soccer America boys rankings. The Blast won the under-14 title at the 2006 National Championships. Rising Star: Keon Parsa, a 2007 adidas all-star selection, was one of four '92 VUSC players selected to play at the Thanksgiving Interregionals.
17 TEAM OHIO FC. The program's Mutiny team, seventh at the 2006 Manchester United Premier Cup, had three players in last fall's U.S. U-17 residency program, including 16-year-old defender Kofi Sardoie, who represented the USA at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup. In 2007, Team Ohio FC won five state cup championships. Rising Star: 15-year-old midfielder Aaron Horton.
18 CONCORDE FIRE. The Concorde program, spread out across the Atlanta area with north, central and south teams in its Classic program, returns to the Soccer America rankings after a year's absence. It has been ranked as high as No. 5 in the annual rankings. Rising Stars: Robert Botchway and Jordan McCrary were called up for the U.S. U-15 boys select team for the 2007 Nike Friendlies.
19 VARDAR SC. The Michigan club has been in the boys rankings four out of five years. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy member has won three national championships. In the last three years, it has captured two regional titles and finished second twice at the Region II finals. Rising Star: Midfielder Jerome Cristobal was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2007 Michigan under-13 championships.
20 ANDROMEDA. Founded in 1980, Andromeda won its first national championship in 2007 when it captured the U-17 boys title at the U.S. Youth Soccer championships. A year earlier, the Plano, Texas, club had fallen in the U-16 Region III semifinals. Rising Star: Dillon Powers, son of former indoor star Michael Powers, played in the '91 ODP Super Group over the Christmas holidays.
21 REAL COLORADO. The Real Colorado National boys program from suburban Denver has won three regional titles in the last three years: the U-17 and U-18 titles in 2005 and the U-17 championship again in 2007. Rising Star: Zac Portillos scored three goals in U-15/16 group at the 2007 Nike Friendlies and was invited to U-18 mega-camp in January.
22 NOMADS SC. The La Jolla (Calif.) club was a pioneer in youth soccer, developing top youth talent in the San Diego for more than 30 years, and is a founding member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program. Nomads U-19 and U-15 teams won U.S. Youth Soccer regional titles in 2005. Rising Star: Will Whidden played on U.S. U-15 boys White team at the '07 Nike Friendlies.
23 SCOTT GALLAGHER. The St. Louis area club, winner of 11 national titles at the youth and amateur levels, has a long history of success. A sign of the increasing cooperation by elite programs: Scott Gallagher and archrival St. Louis Soccer Club merged their U-15 and U-17 programs to ensure the best training environment. Rising Star: 16-year-old keeper Mark Pais.
24 JAVANON. The Kentucky club won its second U.S. Youth Soccer championship in 2006 when it captured the McGuire Cup. The big news at Javanon in 2008 is the opening of a $1.3 million complex. The club, which began with one team in 1988, now has more than 400 players in its travel program. Rising Star: Brycen Howard, a '92 adidas all-star at the Thanksgiving Interregionals.
25 LAFC, NEW YORK RED BULLS. LAFC, another Coast Soccer League powerhouse, won the U-17 title at the 2007 Super Y-League North American finals and had two runners-up at the 2006 finals. The Red Bulls, who fell to LAFC in the U-17 final, will make their youth academy free to all players. Rising Stars: LAFC - Carlos Alvarez, MVP at the '07 SYL U-16 finals, New York Red Bulls - midfielders Joey Spivak and Dragon Naumoski, U-16 SYL all-stars.
(This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Soccer America magazine.)