Commentary

No shortage of national championships for kids in USA

By Mike Woitalla

If the USA unequivocally leads the soccer world in something, it's championships for kids.

The first youth soccer national championship in the USA was founded in 1935 and contested by U-19 boys. In 1975, it was named the McGuire Cup, in honor of James McGuire, who served as U.S. Soccer Federation president in 1952-54 and again in 1971 until his death in 1974.

U.S. Youth Soccer introduced a U-19 girls national championship in 1980 and by 2001 had national championships for six age groups for both boys and girls, from U-14 to U-19. U-13s were added in 2013, by which time other national championships had joined the scene.

In 2007, the USSF created the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for U-15/16 and U-17/18 boys.

In 2009 came the girls Elite Club National League (ECNL), sanctioned by U.S. Club Soccer, which also oversees a variety of other cups and championships.

The Development Academy has a U-13/14 division, but without standings and with a showcase designed for youth national team scouting rather than crowning a champion. All 88 U-13/14 teams played in the National Showcase that coincided with older age groups’ playoffs late last month in Westfield, Ind.

Development Academy Quarterfinals

U.S. Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) quarterfinalists emerged from June 22-26 playoffs in Westfield, Ind. Quarterfinal games are hosted by the higher seeded teams. Winners will advance to the Academy Championships in Carson, Calif., with semifinals on July 16 and championship games July 18.

USSDA U-17/18 quarterfinals (July 7)
Montreal Impact (1) vs. Real So Cal (8)
Real Salt Lake AZ (2) vs. Shattuck-St. Mary’s (7)
Houston Dynamo (3) vs. Chicago Fire (6)
San Jose Earthquakes (4) vs. Players Development Academy (5)

USSDA U-15/16 quarterfinals (July 8)
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Chivas USA (8)
Philadelphia Union (2) vs. New England Revolution (7)
FC Dallas (3) vs. Beachside SC (6)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4) vs. Georgia United (5)

(77 teams compete in the USSDA in both the U-17/18 and U-15/16 age groups.)

Development Academy U-17/18 All-Conference Teams
Development Academy U-15/16 All-Conference Teams


ECNL National Finals

The girls Elite Club National League (ECNL) National Finals for U-15, U-16 and U-17 divisions will be held July 14-18 in Richmond, Va. U-14 and U-18 champions were crowned in Seattle in June.

U-14 Final
Slammers FC 2 San Diego Surf 0
U-15 finalists
Crossfire Premier, Solar Chelsea, So Cal Blues, Real Colorado, D'Feeters Soccer Club, Michigan Hawks , West Coast FC , Colorado Storm.
U-16 finalists
De Anza Force, So Cal Blues, Match Fit Academy, FC Stars of Massachusetts, Lonestar SC, West Coast FC, Orlando City, Las Vegas Premier SA.
U-17 finalists
Eclipse Select, San Diego Surf, PDA, Slammers FC, Real Colorado, Crossfire Premier, Dallas Sting, Santa Rosa United.
U-18 Final
Michigan Hawks 2 West Coast FC 0

(The eight finalists in each age group will be drawn into two four-team round-robin groups with winners advancing to the final.)


US Youth Soccer National Championships

The US Youth Soccer National Championships, held Tulsa, Okla., July 21-26, consist of USYS Regional Champions in the U-13 through U-19 boys and girls age groups as well as the US Youth Soccer National League qualifiers in the U-14 through U-18 boys and girls age groups for a field of 96 teams.

Champions in the four regions were crowned within the last two weeks:

Region I (East) Champions
Region II (Midwest) Champions
Region III (South) Champions
Region IV (West) Champions

27 comments about "No shortage of national championships for kids in USA".
  1. Brian Something, July 3, 2015 at 8:47 a.m.

    I love how all the propaganda from US Soccer and US Youth Soccer is this: at the youth level, it's not about winning, it's about player development. Yet 80% of the emails I get from USYS is them pimping their national championships. Is it really necessary to have a national championship for 12 year olds? Who does it really serve?

  2. Soccer Madness, July 3, 2015 at 10:04 a.m.

    Hipocrisy at its best

  3. rh b, July 3, 2015 at 11:50 a.m.

    There are also the US Club Nationals next week that were not mentioned in the article. The reality is less desirable options -- pay-for-play, tournaments, lots of games, and camps -- are the only ways in the US right now for most youth players (non USSDA) to play more and against better competition. While evolving, the culture and the lack of funds in the US don't support a comprehensive, robust alternative development model. I hope it can change.

  4. R2 Dad, July 3, 2015 at 1:01 p.m.

    There is a major misunderstanding about practice vs match play in this country. US parents are convinced that playing the most competitive matches is the best way to improve their child's performance and development. But everything I've read and understand about the game points to the opposite: competitive practices are the forge that makes the player. How many parents in the US are demanding top-flight practices instead of top-flight matches/leagues/tournaments? There's about 14 in this entire country. This is something that Klinsmann can fix but no one wants to address it.

  5. Kent James, July 3, 2015 at 6:27 p.m.

    Nobody should have national championships at levels below U16. If we want to de-emphasize winning at the younger ages, then maybe we should DE-EMPHASIZE WINNING at the younger ages.

  6. Wesley Hunt, July 3, 2015 at 9:56 p.m.

    R2 Dad spot on. Seen middle class parents nearly going broke trying to support their kids for all the traveling tournaments they do with their club team even at U10. Plus all the stress to the family for the the travel and on the kid to perform. No wonder so many kids burn out and quite. Their time would be better spent at those young ages staying in local leagues, playing futsal and small sided games as much as possible and keeping the love of the sport alive in the kids rather than making it all such a big deal at such an early age. The technical age appropriate training that they get is much more important than what tournament their team just won. The trick is to find that but it is pretty scarce and you have to recognize it when you see it. Short of that make it as fun as possible.

  7. Soccer Madness, July 3, 2015 at 10:41 p.m.

    R2, easy fix. Use competitive games as competitive practices. Call them high intensity scrimmages. The best way tibdevekop will always be playingbthevgam no matter what anyone saids. The problem isn't we play to many games. The problem is what is emphasized during thebgame. If you play to win playing kickball or 1-2 touch then you are actually killing development. Does bit matter if it's done more at practice at high level? Nope. You are just getting better at being less creative and more predictable. Brazil and Argentina will always produce tgebbest simply because more of them play freely at younger ages, therefore more creative. By the time a coach gets a hold ofbthem they are already who they are. Same with basketball. If we had LeBron in a Basketball academy system he would not be great. He would notbbe the risk taker that makes him great. Skills would be focused on 1-2 aspects. But basketbal Academy coaches would be bragging they only pull from USBA!!

  8. David Israel, July 5, 2015 at 12:20 p.m.

    Soccer Madness - "The best way to develop will always be playing the game no matter what anyone saids."

    Why is that such an unshakeable belief in America? If this were baseball and someone tells his story about breaking into the major leagues by constantly practicing batting, no one would think anything of it. In basketball if you say

    "You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise."

    no one jumps up to say something ignorant about playing to learn to Michael Jordan - http://refspace.com/quotes/Michael_Jordan/Q1880.

    Only in soccer is it considered some sort of badge of honor to pretend that you can learn fundamental skills actually on the pitch. Because outright lying about skills training in soccer is the American thing to do.

  9. Soccer Madness, July 5, 2015 at 9:30 p.m.

    David, i said the best way to develop is playing the game. That's number one. Of course it matters what you do and how you do. Do you think Argentina and Brazil have a problem with fundamentals? Why is it the most exported players come out of here? Because they have a pay to play system that tells you you need a high level coach to teach you fundamentals? Or could it be that they see and learn mostly from each other and what they see on tv? Exactly like USA basketball. I ain't talking about all the good pro players. I'm talking about who all those good pro players want to be like along with the rest of the world. What environment do they come out of? Nba biggest star's will always come out of the ghetto. Do they pay big money to learn the fundamentals? B.S Please don't try to sell coaching fundamentals when history both in socce r and basketball say it is excelled in otherwise. Fundamentals are nothing without the magic of creativity and risk taking. That my friend is unique to the humbles of environments. Nobody can prove logically with a majority of players in either sport.

  10. Soccer Madness, July 5, 2015 at 9:37 p.m.

    Like I said before, the problem in USA is what 8is being preached to do in a game. Not the actual amount of games. You can practice garbage 4-5 days a week and give the one game a week a lot of value but it won't matter if you play the same garbage. Garbage to me is the low risk soccer, possession, defense first, don't risk dangerous plays, kick ball, don't make runs that will put you tout of position defensively, etc. That is all garbage that 9prevails in usa. It looks good for gthe regular majority of ignorant parents that love the fact that his or her unskilled kid gets the ball the same amount of time as the best skid on the team. All that is doing is making the sucky kid think he can make it and discouraging the kid that actually is only one to have a chance. If we did this in the nba we would have the same or worst ratings than mls. That's why Kobe correctly called out Aau. It's garbage. What's different in youth soccer in usa?

  11. Soccer Madness, July 5, 2015 at 11:21 p.m.

    David, how much creativity involved in baseball? LOL. WHat a poor comparison. Larry Bird became very good shooting the wrong way. HAHAHA. Question to you is do you need a coach to teach you fundamentals as much as everyone thinks? Because the best prove that otherwise. You give me an example of someone that learned fundamentals through training over innovating on the pitch and I will give you 10 better that learned in the ghetto. Want to try that experiment?

  12. Soccer Madness, July 5, 2015 at 11:22 p.m.

    I think the makority of Americans think like you so you shouldnt worry.

  13. David Israel, July 6, 2015 at 2:13 a.m.

    Soccer Madness, obviously Argentina and Brazil are not getting their touch from playing 11v11 games where you get maybe 13 to 15 chances with the ball. They play futsal and small sided games. Nowhere did I claim you have to have an expensive coach to learn fundamentals but it certainly doesn't hurt. For sure though large sided games are not the path to playing beautiful soccer. The kids booting the ball are not tactically deficient; they are technically incapable of playing non-garbage soccer.

    Please separate out your pay to play issues from practice versus tournaments and large sided games. They are two different discussions.

  14. Soccer Madness, July 6, 2015 at 10:12 a.m.

    David, where did I say 11v11 was great for development? In USA travel u8 through U10 play 7v7 and U11-12 play 9v9. In Argentina and Brazil kids play in competition as well and its all free. Futsal is just one aspect of their development. They will play 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, etc depending on nuber showing up that day. Their main objective everyday is to play. Its not like they have a rule againts playing more than 5v5.

  15. Soccer Madness, July 6, 2015 at 10:30 a.m.

    I said playing the gaME IS TH BEST way to develop. You said "Why is that such an unshakeable belief in America?" What you just pointed out about Argentina and Brazil playing futsal and small sided games is agreeing with me. Nothing hurts. Could it help to pay a coach to learn fundamentals? Sure. Should you do that instead of just playing? Hell no. The problem in USA is that we give too much value to "quality" training. Coerver. And think it meaningless to get together with friends to play. We have more than proved that we dont get top players out of that. The kids booting it is a result of that environment you want to defend. Coaches that are paid to win play low risk soccer to improve their chances of success. That includes that no attack posession garbage that so many USA Coaches now a days are implementing. All this over emphasis on winning and making a practice look good and making a team of kids look organized and discipl;ined undoubtably kills creativity and risk taking. These 2 elements are indispensable in the making of World Class players. It all goes together. So regarding the system we already have in place we can instantly improve it and therefore start changing the culture by playing those ever important travel games as if they were practice/scrimmage. Let the kids take risks. Dont worry about defensive shape so much. Play with only 1-2 subs to max play time. Encourage attack attack on every posession. filtered passes. no look passes. back heel passes. If you coach this way it is better to play more league games than practice. Kids will get more out of it. If you practice the same way then just do every day. Kids will love it and be better for it. I have proven this. David, please dont try to change this discussion now to large sided games.

  16. William Anderson, July 6, 2015 at 10:50 a.m.

    National Championships for U-12 in a country of 320 million spread out over 5 time zones. Brilliant! (sarcasm font)

  17. David Israel, July 6, 2015 at 1:21 p.m.

    Soccer Madness what exactly are you advocating? The topic of discussion here was tournaments. Do you want to make the existing tournaments less competitive and higher touch? So kids travel 100s and sometimes 1000s of miles with coaches that say play beautiful soccer and don't worry about winning?

    Its the nature of a tournament that if you don't win you get knocked out. Especially if you have traveled a long way its not the kind of event that teams do risk taking. It doesn't matter whether the coach is paid or not or even if there is no coach. No one is going to travel so far and not do whatever it takes to win. No matter how skilled and well meaning the players you will end up with some Copa America looking play (ugly).

    Playing the game is NOT THE BEST WAY to develop. Playing pickup non-tournament small sided or futsal is not "THE GAME". The game is 11v11 full competitive. So you have to modify it dramatically if you want kids to be able to learn skills and practice your beautiful soccer while playing it.

    In America that even applies to a small sided pickup game. Since we don't have enough skilled players here you won't get the same results as you do in other countries. The soccer culture has to be imported and so far our only way to do that is to send players abroad who come back as coaches. Maybe that won't be the case for the next generation but we are still stuck there currently.

  18. Soccer Madness, July 6, 2015 at 1:36 p.m.

    David, depends on how you look at it. To me they are all games. To you there are not. Neymar plays the same whatever and wherever it is. Thast what we need more of. 11v11 in USA starts at U13 for most, so to you nobody is actually playing the "Game" at the younger ages, correct? To me it doesnt matter. The problem is saying exactly what you just said "Since we don't have enough skilled players here you won't get the same results as you do in other countries". SO by this you mean to say we need to pay coaches alot of money to develop by training. Thats B.S. What we need is more coaches to take travel games and tournaments as if they were practice and scrimmages, especially at U8-U12. Comprende? Thats how you start a culture that you speak of. Not by getting everybody used to having some one train them as only or best option. And by the way we have alot of skill in USA, the problem is it is not appreciated and therefore developed. Pay to play caters to the sucky momma boys. Thats why we make it fun for them by forcing the skilled (often poor and scholarshipped) kids to adapt to the sucky kids. It all goes together. Waht would happen if clubs focused on pure skill, creativity, risk taking?? All the pay to play ki9ds would leave!! Why? They wouldnt see the ball!! Parents would yell "that kid is selfish". Can you imagine another coun try saying "well we dont have skilled basketball players so lets start a youth travel pay to play system to develop player so we can one day beat USA". Doesnt that sound extremely stupid and Naive to you?? Wouldnt it make much more sense for those countries to look into the few hoods they have for skill?

  19. Soccer Madness, July 6, 2015 at 1:43 p.m.

    As far as teams traveling far to win. Ok, that happens what? 1-2 times a year? Ok, so its cool to play those to win. WHat about the rest of the year where they play cose to home? What about practice?? Problem is and will always be these coaches will play every game and design every practice all year to win those 2 tournaments. Thats where he makes his living. Doesnt matter what you do, 3v3, 5v5, 7v7 if that is what the team/club is designed to do. SO my suggestion for all those few clubs that want to develop is to not see games as more important to win than to showcase. Play it as a scrimmage. Encourage risk taking. I also hope parents reading this ask their coaches to let their kids create and not focus on garbage play. Who cares if they are not skilled. Like you said, it cant hurt.

  20. David Israel, July 6, 2015 at 8:46 p.m.

    Play it as a scrimmage is not some cure all. First basic touch count. As I said before count up how many times a player gets to touch the ball in your scrimmage and then multiple by the number of scrimmages you plan to play a year. If you get a really low number of touches then no way anyone gets skills from only scrimmaging.

    That's why the Neymar you mentioned doesn't just scrimmage:



    "Neymar's cousin and sister (Jennifer and Rafaela) were used as goalposts whilst playing indoors and his other cousins (Lorrayne and Rayssa) were opponents "or training dummies, with respect", as Neymar put it. He recalls that they stood as obstacles, like cones, and even wore football shirts to make it look real. "I would spend hours dribbling around them, learning to control the ball in that tight environment, always just me against them." He continues: "Hours and hours and hours were spent like that." This is how he learnt how to get his outstanding balance and control."

  21. David Israel, July 6, 2015 at 8:58 p.m.

    Oh and Neymar's personal trainer was his father:

    Many are already aware of Neymar's extraordinary natural talents, yet are unaware of the amount of hard work he has put in to be where he is today. This started from a very young age back when he used to follow his father to matches and watch him play. He learnt that he needs to be committed, determined and train hard in order to succeed. Neymar Sr used to tell him, "Keep moving, son. Never stop, move to both sides and let the opponent get tired. Don't stay in your comfort zone; don't make the opposition's life easier," as per the autobiography. The two of them used to spend hours analysing the little details.

  22. Soccer Madness, July 6, 2015 at 10:20 p.m.

    David, of course its not a cure all. Never said that either. I think you are just more inclined to the paid training approach and try to defend it as much as possible. So you think more training of "touches" is better? Everywhere I go I see coaches preaching the same thing. Train Train Train. 1 Game to 4 practice ratioi. Games have to mean soethnig. Thats the dumbest thing I have ever heard. I coach as well. We train as well. But the training is meaningless without constant games. We have limted subs for max play time. Creativity is a must. No booting. No one touch with space in front of you to dribble. I dont care if you dont know how to dribble. You will either learn or at least have a notion. In USA we focus on coaching points that will fill our pockets. WHy in heavens do you need 5 on the bench for a 7v7 U8 game??

  23. Soccer Madness, July 6, 2015 at 10:25 p.m.

    I agree with hard work gets you ahead but it also matters what you call training. 1-2 touch passing to keep posession as main coaching point is dumb. Tactical defense at U10 is stupid. ALl of that is a waste of time and money. A U8- U12 player should always have be able to try 1v1 or even 1v2 dribble to beat opponent or creative passes, chips, etc. with daring runs. Those are all things that require more game situations than boring drills. We develop no fwds because of hwo most think in this country. I am always getting calls asking for goal scorers from top clubs. Why is that?

  24. David Israel, July 7, 2015 at 1:59 a.m.

    Again count up the number of touches on the ball your kids get. Period. If you are not willing to track touch count there is no point discussing soccer with you. This is the definition of "unshakeable belief" - that some how "constant games" will create technical players no matter how low the touch count or the grasp of fundamentals. Beckham spent hours bending a ball around his father; no need in your fantasy world - just get out there and play!

  25. Kent James, July 7, 2015 at 11:34 p.m.

    In the USSF coaching schools, they emphasize that "the game is the best teacher". And that is largely true; lessons learned through playing are usually learned well, but it is not always an efficient process. If you play "soccer in the streets" every day after school when you're young, you'll probably have some skill (assuming you were relatively athletic to start with). But we do not have a culture where that happens, so coaches must try to speed up the process. Having kids see professional players do a move, and then try to mimic it at home or in informal games (on their own) is the best way for the kid to learn, but maybe they don't see that many games. So coaches can teach them moves, and help them practice them until their proficient. Players need a mixture of formats to learn to play, because not all players develop in the same way. Some do better in an informal environment, while others thrive in a structured, disciplined atmosphere. To develop as many excellent players as we can, we need to offer many alternatives. Some good coaching structured so it's affordable (maybe a proficient player does a weekly skills clinic when they're young, while the rest of their practices are run by volunteers), lots of unstructured play to develop skills and creativity (pick-up), and some more structure, high intensity matches as they get older. But high cost, high pressure tournaments when kids are young should not be part of the picture.

  26. Soccer Madness, July 11, 2015 at 1:45 a.m.

    David so I guess Argentina and Brazil have it all wrong then. Ibeonder who counts their touches when paying at u7-u13. The poorest there become the greatest inbthe world. Guess what. They play. But you keep training those touches!

  27. David Israel, July 13, 2015 at 8:09 p.m.

    Who from Argentina and Brazil? Neymar above made it a point to participate in high touch training. He didn't count his touches but he practiced in his home and at futsal where it was just him or small sided. When we were in Brazil my kids played soccer in the favela, on the beach and at local pickups and it was all high touch. They might be poor in dollars but in terms of soccer resources they far outstrip what is available in the US. You have in your mind some Brazil where kids play 11v11 coached games and tournaments all the time - I don't think that Brazil exists.

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