For the third year, Soccer America selects the top 20 boys and girls clubs, based on success of their teams in national youth competitions over the last three years and national recognition for players from these clubs in 2005.
By Paul Kennedy
2006 Soccer America Top 20 Boys Clubs: Magic again
The Chicago Magic remains in the top spot in the 2006 Soccer America Top 20 boys rankings, ahead of the Dallas Texans, who moved up 11 spots to No. 2.
CHICAGO MAGIC. For the second year, the Magic is the top boys club in Soccer America's Top 20 rankings. In the last three years, the Magic boys have won eight national titles (four Super Y-League, three U.S. Club and one U.S. Youth Soccer). (On the girls side, the Magic won two national titles in '05.) Magic alums Ofori Sakordie and Quavas Kirk started for the USA at the '05 Under-17 World Championship. Rising Stars: Midfielders Jacob Bushue and Perry Kitchen traveled with the U.S. U-14s to Mexico in January.
DALLAS TEXANS. The Texans moved up 11 places to No. 2 by winning the U-18 and U-17 titles at the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships. The Texans, the only multiple winners in 2005, will challenge for the top spot in 2006. Its '90 and '92 Red teams won titles at the Disney's Soccer Showcase over the Christmas holidays. Rising Star: Ethan Meyer was called into the U.S. under-14 developmental camp last summer after starring at the '05 id2 national training camp.
SOCKERS FC. The Chicago area club won the 2005 McGuire (U-19) Cup for its third U.S. Youth Soccer title after U-16 championships in 1995 and 2001. Two other Sockers boys teams were runners-up at the '05 Region II championships. Rising Star: Greg Jordan, a freshman midfielder, stood out last winter for the Super Y-League's ODP all-stars.
ARSENAL FC. The Alta Loma, Calif., club repeated as U.S. Youth Soccer national boys champs, winning the U-15 title in 2004 and the U-16 crown in '05. Moving up to U-17s last fall, they were Premier League champions in the Coast Soccer League and swept all four games at the Nike Friendlies, including a 2-1 victory over the U.S. U-17 national team. Rising Star: Freshman midfielder Norberto Ochoa, who attended last May's U-15 national team camp, is the younger brother of U-20 forward Sammy Ochoa.
FC DELCO.After winning five U.S. Youth Soccer championships in 2000-03, the Philadelphia area club has been shut out the last two years. (The U-23s were USASA national champions in 2005, adding an eighth star to Delco's logo for eight national titles.) But the U-18 Crunch produced five 2005 NSCAA/adidas Youth All-Americans, and Bobby Warshaw of the U-17 Black was one of three Delco players to earn High School and Youth All-American honors. Rising Stars: Andrew O'Malley and Joseph Schmid traveled with the U.S. U-14s to Mexico.
SCOTT GALLAGHER. The St. Louis area club holds steady at No. 6. Gallagher won three national titles in the last three years: U-17 ('04 U.S. Youth Soccer) and U-16 and U-15 ('03 U.S. Club Soccer). Gallagher trivia: It had more alumni - four - than any other youth club at this winter's U.S. national team training camp. Steve Ralston, Pat Noonan, Chris Klein and Taylor Twellman are hoping to join Brian McBride, another ex-Gallagher player, at the World Cup. Rising star: Zambian-born Charles Renken, 11, is on the fast track %96 he plays for the U.S. U-14s -- much like Freddy Adu was five years ago.
SO CAL UNITED. Based in the San Fernando Valley, United won its second U.S. Youth Soccer title in three years when it captured the 2005 U-14 boys title. From the '03 U-16 championship team, five players were selected to represent the USA at the U-18 Lisbon International Tournament in June, including keeper Chris Seitz, who starred last fall for NCAA Division I champion Maryland. Rising Star: Jacob Bernstein won the adidas Golden Boot at the 2005 U-14 U.S. Youth Soccer nationals.
CASA MIA'S BAYS. The Bays' bid to become the first team to win three straight U.S. Youth Soccer title in its age group ended when they fell to Massachusetts club Juventus Post Road in group play at the 2005 Region I U-17 championships. The Casa Mia's Bays U-16 and U-12 teams, both ranked in Maryland, are part of the Baltimore Bays program. Rising Star: Drew Yates, the Washington Post's 2005 Fall High School Player of the Year.
FC GREATER BOSTON. The Bolts became the first Massachusetts team since 1937 to win a U.S. Youth Soccer title when they captured the 2005 U-15 crown. Former McGuire Cup champions and U.S. national team buddies Bruce Murray and John Kerr serve as the club's technical director and coaching director, respectively. Rising Star: Sheanon Williams, one of the top forward prospects in the U.S. U-17 residency program.
WASHINGTON FC PREMIER. FC United United and girls power FC Royals merged to form Washington FC Premier. In the last decade, the Tacoma, Wash., area program has become a national boys power, winning the 1999 U.S. Youth Soccer U-18 title and finishing second in 2004 at the U-16 level. It produced Nik Besagno, first pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft. Rising Star: Daniel Wenzel, just the third Washington product to enter U.S. under-17 residency program. His goal: become U.S. national team captain.
SERENO SC. The Phoenix area club makes the Boys and Girls Top 20 for the third straight year. After producing national finalists and three regional finalists in 2003 and 2004, Sereno's boys were shut out in the 2005 U.S. Youth championship, but they still managed to produce five state champions. Sereno is one of the biggest competitive programs in the country with 600 players. Rising Star: Forward Nicolas Nava, a high school freshman who is part of the Region IV '91 player pool.
CROSSFIRE PREMIER. Like FC United, Crossfire is a Washington State Premier League powerhouse that has developed a national reputation for producing players. Crossfire grad Preston Zimmerman starred on the U.S. U-17s and signed at German club Hamburg. Crossfire is so deep it had three teams reach the quarterfinals of this year's state U-16 quarterfinals. Rising Stars: Brandon Zimmerman, Preston's younger's brother, and Ellis McLoughlin are in U.S. U-17 residency.
NOMADS. Founded in 1976, the La Jolla club was one of the country's first super clubs. Despite the proliferation of youth clubs in Southern California, the Nomads remain a national power. They sent two teams (U-19s and U-15s) to the 2005 U.S. Youth Soccer national championships. Rising Star: Adrian Avila, younger brother of UC Santa Barbara star Eric Avila, is one of the top high school sophomores in the San Diego area.
HC UNITED. Formed in 2001 following the merger of three Tampa, Fla., area clubs, HC (Hillsborough County) won its first national title last summer when it captured the Super Y-League's U-19 crown. HC had two players make appearances for the USA at the U-17 World Championship: Blake Wagner and Jeremy Hall. Rising Star: Jared Adamo, one of top prep juniors in Tampa area.
CASL ELITE. The Raleigh, N.C., area league is the only program besides the Chicago Magic to have boys teams reach finals at the U.S. Youth Soccer's National Championships in each of the last three years. CASL fell to the Greater Boston Bolts, 5-4, in the 2005 U-15 final. Rising Star: Freshman Nick Millington, a standout at last summer's id2 camp, was one of three CASL players picked to attend the SYL's '06 U-13 ODP camp.
IRVINE STRIKERS. ISC has consistently produced national and regional champions. It's had at least one team make the Region IV finals each of the last five years. Its U-19 team won the Coast Soccer League's 2005 Premier League by five points. Rising Star: Jesse Paredes, a 15-year-old midfielder from Los Angeles, entered U.S. Soccer U-17 residency in January.
CONCORDE FIRE. The Atlanta area club is one of the strongest teams in the South. Its U-18s should challenge for a national championship after winning Disney's Soccer Showcase in late December. Rising Star: Forward Bryan Dominguez, just 5-foot-2, is at 14 the second youngest player in the U.S. U-17 residency program.
SOLAR. The Dallas club has won regional titles in the 2004 U-15 and '05 U-16 divisions. It finished third, then second at the national championships, behind Arsenal, the champion both years. Rising Star: Defender Chad Hedlund, son of North Texas women's coach John Hedlund, made the U.S. under-14 national team this winter.
POTOMAC SA. The program with which Freddy Adu won a U-14 national title in 2001 came close last summer. The Cougars finished third at U.S. Youth Soccer's National Championships, missing out on a spot in the U-14 final on a tiebreaker. Its U-12 team was also 2005 Region I champion. Rising Star: U.S. U-14 Joseph-Claude Gyau is the son of former U.S. international Philip Gyau and grandson of former Ghana international and NASL star Joseph Gyau.
COLORADO RUSH NIKE. The Rush, which has expanded to encompass programs in several states, has had at least one Region IV finalist each of the last five years. PATEADORES.The Southern California club sent two players -- MLS-bound David Arvizu and goalie Bryan Perk -- to the '05 U-17 World Championship. Rising Stars: Colorado Nike Rush -- id2 standout Zachary Foxhaven, an eighth-grader; Pateadores -- junior Billy Cortes, who was outstanding at the '05 Nike Friendlies.
2006 Soccer America Top 20 Girls Clubs:Texans on top
The Dallas Texans moved into first place for the first time in Soccer America's Top 20 ranking of the best girls youth clubs.
DALLAS TEXANS.The Texans girls move up to No. 1, while the Texans boys are now No. 2. The girls had four teams advance as far as the Region IV finals, and the U-19s and U-15s reached the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships. The Texans look to be again strong in 2006. The Texans U-17s and U-18s won Showcase divisions at the beginning of the year at Disney's Soccer Showcase. Rising Star: High school sophomore Melissa Henderson, one of five Texans invited into January's U-17 girls national team camp.
PDA. The New Jersey club swept the U-17 to U-15 divisions at the Region I finals, and the U-17s and U-16s, both repeat national finalists, came within one game of coming home with a national championship from the U.S. Youth Soccer finals. Rising Star: Gabriella Guzman, who scored both goals for the PDA Fire in its 2-1 victory over FC Delco in the Region I U-13 girls final.
ECLIPSE SELECT. The Illinois club has won back-to-back U.S. Youth Soccer national championships, capturing the 2004 U-16 and 2005 U-17 titles. Two other Eclipse teams reached the 2005 Region II finals. It has had 18 '06 college graduates sign on with Division I college programs. Rising Star: Sophomore midfielder Julie Ewing was one of three Eclipse players named to the 2005 NSCAA/adidas Girls All-American Team.
MICHIGAN HAWKS. One of Eclipse Select losses at the Region II finals was to the Hawks in the U-16 division. In 2004, the same team was one of three Hawks teams to win regional titles. Rising Star: U.S. U-15 midfielder Victoria Bailey, U-14 MVP at last fall's State Cup, where the Hawks took home three titles.
SERENO SC. Sereno became the first Arizona club to win a U.S. Youth Soccer national girls championship when it captured the '03 U-17 crown. Last year, Sereno produced two U.S. Club Soccer regional champions but no U.S. Youth Soccer regional champions. Rising Star: Sophomore defender Kassandra McCluskie, the only Arizonan picked for Region IV %9190s' spring tour of Italy.
SLAMMERS.The Newport Beach, Calif., club won the U-16 U.S. Youth Soccer and U-15 U.S. Club Soccer girls titles in 2005, giving them six national titles over the last four years. The U-16s' title came two years after winning the U-14 title. Rising Star: Mariah Nogueira, selected for the U.S. U-15 girls national team camp in January.
SAN DIEGO SURF. The Surf -- host to the Surf Cup and Surf Girls Cup, two of the most important girls tournaments in the country -- is a perennial Far West power. It's sent girls teams to the U.S. National Championships in each of the last six years and brought home titles in 2000, 2002 and 2003. Rising Star: Michelle Spacciapolli, one of the stars of the Surf's '05 U-15 Region IV championship team.
BETHESDA SC. Bethesda and No. 2 PDA are the only clubs to send teams to the Region I finals in each of the last three years. Bethesda alums Meagan Holmes and Amanda Poach had big freshman years in college and played for the champion USA in the recent CONCACAF Under-20 Qualifying Tournament. Rising Star: Caroline Miller, a U.S. U-15 forward, was one of the top prep players in the Washington, D.C., area as a freshman last fall.
CARMEL UNITED. The club from the Indianapolis suburbs is a national girls powerhouse. The U-19 Commotion was one of the great youth soccer stories of 2005. It battled back from a van crash that injured players seriously in 2004 to return to the U.S. Youth National Championships for the second time in three years. Carmel's Lauren Cheney is the only high school player on the senior women's national team. Rising Star: Junior Hannah Messick, one of the top goalie prospects in Region II.
MUSTANG SOCCER.Former U.S. World Cup defender John Doyle serves as director of coaching for Mustang, one of the top clubs in the soccer-rich San Francisco suburbs. Mustang, the 2004 U.S. Youth Soccer U-15 champion, has already had seven seniors commit to NCAA Division I schools. Rising Star: Jennifer Laponte, a high school sophomore who trained with the U.S. U-15s in 2005.
PEACHTREE YSA.The Georgia club won its first national title in 2003 when the Lazers were crowned U.S. Youth Soccer U-19 champions. The current U-18 team, led by U.S. U-20 national team star Kelly O'Hara, has had 15 players commit to four-year colleges. Rising Star: Michelle Olivier represented the U.S. U-16s in Japan last year.
LAGUNA HILLS ECLIPSE. Three years after its U-15 national title, the Southern California club returned home in 2005 with the U.S. Youth Soccer U-18 trophy. Eclipse product Amy Rodriguez was called up to the senior national team after excelling for the U-20s in CONCACAF qualifying. Rising Star: High school sophomore Renae Cuellar, a member of the Region IV '90 player pool.
SO CAL BLUES. The Blues, one of three 2005 U.S. Youth Soccer national champions from Southern California, has a long tradition of producing players. The Blues' Tad Bobak has been one of the most influential figures in California youth soccer for 30 years. Rising Star: Lauren Matheson: winner of last year's adidas Golden Boot at the 2005 U.S. Youth Soccer U-14 finals.
SO CAL UNITED. So Cal United is the only club to win U.S. Youth Soccer titles in each of the last three years: boys U-16 (2003) and U-18 (2005) and girls U-17 (2004). United has had 13 girls commit for Division I programs for next fall. Rising Star: Michelle Cruz, eighth-grader whose goals gave United U-13 title at San Diego Surf Girls Cup XI.
STING SC. Winner of the first girls national title ever crowned, in 1980, and seven U.S. Youth Soccer titles overall, the Sting remains a force in Dallas girls soccer. The U-18 Sting beat the Dallas Texans in a shootout in an all-Dallas final at the 2005 Region III championships. Rising Star: Kim Castleberry, a freshman on the Sting Royal '90 team, was picked to attend 2005 U-14 national identification camp.
TSC CHALLENGE.Last year marked the fifth straight year that the Challenge sent at least one team to the Region III finals. The Challenge, which has had 25 seniors make college commitments, merged last year with the Texans, a longtime national boys power, to form Houston mega-club Texas Soccer Club. Rising Star: Ninth-grader Ryan Smith represented Region III at '91 Interregional camp over Thanksgiving.
GREENSBORO TWISTERS. For the second time in three years, the Twisters, part of the Greensboro Youth Soccer program, produced a Region III champion. The '88 Twisters Green produced a pair of NSCAA/adidas Youth All-Americans: Maria Lubrano and Katherine Lutz. Rising Star: Junior Rachael Handy, a member of the '88 Twisters Green championship team and an acclaimed actress in 11 independent films.
ST. LOUIS SC. The former Busch club started out as a boys program, but it is now a national contender each year in both boys and girls soccer. It won its first U.S. Youth Soccer girls title last summer when it captured the U-15 division. Rising Star: Blake Miller, winner of the adidas Golden Boot at last summer's U-15 nationals.
EDMOND SC. The success of the Oklahoma club's teams at the U-14 level has propelled it into the Top 20 for the first time. In both 2004 and 2005, Edmond has finished second in the U-14 division at U.S. Youth Soccer's nationals. Rising Star: Freshman midfielder Dria Hampton attended the U.S. U-16 national team camp in January.
PLEASANTON RAGE. Another of the Northern California powerhouses, the Rage won U.S. Youth Soccer titles in 2002 and 2004. In 2005, Rage teams were U-17 and U-18 state champions and U-14 state runners-up. Rising Star: Kendra Perry, picked for the U.S. U-17 national team in January.