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2012 Under-19 Boys National Championships Preview

July 25, 2012 08:51 AM
 
 
When the US Youth Soccer Under-19 Boys National Championship game kicks off July 28 in Rock Hill, S.C., there will be no shortage of motivation for the teams on either side of the field. 

The U-19 Boys national championship trophy, the James P. McGuire Cup, is celebrating its 77th anniversary as the oldest trophy in American youth sports. 

For the U-19's, this is the swan song for the youth careers of these players, many of whom have been together since they first started playing the sport. They have shared triumph, defeat, sacrifice and determination through the years. To win the McGuire Cup means the victors' names are etched in history alongside those who have helped blaze the path for soccer in the United States.

The McGuire Cup has been played annually since 1935, except for two years during World War II. Originally known as the United States Soccer Federation National Junior Challenge Cup, the competition was renamed the James P. McGuire Junior Champion Cup in 1975, after the late United States Soccer Federation president. McGuire also served on World Cup and various other FIFA committees, and earned an international reputation as an excellent soccer administrator, leader and ambassador for the game in this country.

The championship match will be broadcast live on FOX Soccer, giving the participants a chance to play in a nationally televised game before nearly every player heads off to their college teams and another chapter in their soccer lives.

To claim the 2012 U-19 Boys National Championship is more than just winning the 77th anniversary of the oldest trophy in the game; it signifies the best of the best going out on top.

Empire United S.A. Syracuse (NY-W) is the only team in the field without National Championship experience, but they’ve already grabbed attention as they didn’t concede a single goal in the Regional Championships, knocking off the 2011 National Champion, YMS Thunder (E-PA), in the semifinals and then Baltimore Bays Chelsea (MD), a club that’s won nine National Championships in the last nine years, in the final.
 
"Throughout State Cup and the Regional Championships we’ve scored 25 goals and only given up one," said Empire USA Syracuse head coach Evan Chase.  "Defensively we are solid, of course our keeper is solid, and they are a tough group of kids."
 
"Even though we only gave up one goal, we had kids who scored big goals for us. We know we’re going to get one. It could be one of five or six kids, which is a nice problem to have."
 
"The history of the McGuire Cup is phenomenal. That it has been around this long and that US Youth Soccer has been keeping it going, it would be a feather in our cap to be able to hoist the hardware. We’re ready to go south."
 
Crew Juniors (OH-S) are back on the national stage after capturing the 75th McGuire Cup in 2010. The Crew have emphasized the importance of competing for the McGuire Cup as they track the progress of their college players and evaluate potential talent for their professional side. Ben Speas was a member of the 2010 championship team and was signed by the Crew to a homegrown contract earlier this year. Zarek Valentin, another member of the 2010 team, was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 Major League Soccer draft.
 
"As a staff, we sit down the beginning of every January and we look at scouting notes on who the top freshmen in the country are and look at what we had from last year and how we can build off of that. We just try to fill the holes with the best pieces possible," said Crew Assistant Coach Ian Gordona.
 
"I don’t want to say it’s ‘handpicked’ but I think we identified probably 20 players and then, for the two open positions, I’d say about 20 kids came out from elsewhere, usually the state of Ohio, to have tryouts. We have 21 NCAA Division I players and each kid is trying to prove themselves."
 
"We look at the McGuire Cup from our organization as an opportunity to showcase to people what we’re developing and also that this is a team that we’ve put together and worked with for a long period of time and we’re pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been successful enough to showcase this talent on this stage."
 
"Everybody asks me what I remember most from 2010; we had all these big-time players and it was breathtaking the way they came together as a group and the mental toughness of every one of those boys. I just remember looking at them after the final and just saying thank you for all you did for us. It was fun."
 
"US Youth Soccer puts us on a plateau where we can show everybody what we’re capable of. It’s a great stepping stone for us. The experience we had at the National Championships two years ago was top notch. I’ve been in this a long time and I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited about playing a game than I was at the 2010 Under-19 National Championships. I’m excited."
 
GSA 93 Phoenix Red (GA) are making their third appearance at the National Championships, just missing the championship game on both occasions. Having claimed both Regional and National League Championships in the past, GSA hopes their experience will play off at they look to complete a journey for a team that has kept its care group of players since U-13.
 
"They’ve been together for a long time, the core of the team really since they were about U-13s. They’ve really had a wonderful journey, this is their third time at the National Championships and it’s really a unique opportunity. They’ve been there, they know what the deal is and in the past felt like the two times we were there we really weren’t at our best. Not to make any excuses, but we really didn’t feel like we were at our best," said GSA Boys Director of Coaching Nuno Piteira.
 
"We have great depth and hopefully with the experience of having been there, and most of our guys last year playing collegiately at premier programs, we’re hoping that will be enough to at least put us in a position to play in that championship game. We’re looking forward to it, it’s exciting."
 
"Obviously the McGuire Cup, and everything that comes along with it, is quite special. It’s interesting, but even when these boys were Under-16 and 17 and we went to Nationals the boys thought the whole history of the McGuire Cup was so fascinating. It was almost as if they were more interested in the McGuire Cup when they were competing for the Under-16 and 17 championships then they were in the history of their own age group."
 
"It was such a pleasure to put together this group of kids that were committed to each other and I think winning a National Championship would be the fulfillment of that journey.  Coming together, working and staying committed is that reward at the end. I think more than anything it would just be an opportunity to look at each other and reflect through the emotion of winning something of that nature. Those are things that stay with you for life. The journey with the group has been amazing, and I think a National Championship title would just be incredible. But either way, it’s been an amazing journey."
 
West Coast FC (CA-S) brings a loaded resume that includes five Cal-South state titles, three Region IV crowns and plenty of college soccer success. The team made it all the way to the National final in 2007 and fell just short of the 2010 final, along with GSA. The majority of the team has been together since before they were U-13 and now play for some of the top collegiate programs on the west coast, but they are determined to finish strong before the head back to their college teams for good.
 
"We have been very fortunate because the majority of the players have been with the team since before U-13.  We have gone through a lot of ups and downs throughout the years, it's been an unbelievable ride," said West Coast FC head coach Braeden Cloutier. "It has been such a great team, such a great club to work with. These boys wanted to come back from college and go for one more year. We said no problem and put a team together, this is our last hurrah.  We lost in the finals as U-14 in overtime and ever since then they wanted to come back and win it. We had a chance two years ago and didn’t play too well in Kansas City, we thought that was going to be our last hurrah but here we are today and they are ready to go."
 
"Me personally, I have known about the McGuire Cup since I was a kid. I grew up in Wichita and I was well aware of the cup and the importance and history behind it. I was explaining it to these guys when we started the journey saying, hey this is a big trophy and an important tournament. They understand the significance of the tournament, they are all thinking save the best for last.  To complete the whole thing for the club and the players would be tremendous."
 
The four U-19 teams to earn their way to this year's national championships bring an exciting array of styles, motivation and talent to Manchester Meadows. Will this year's championship be the second for Crew in three years? Will GSA or West Coast finally reach the top in their third try? Or, will Empire be this year’s Cinderella story?

Play begins Wednesday, July 25. You can follow all the game scores in real time here and the highly anticipated U-19 Boys final will be shown live in HD on FOX Soccer Saturday, July 28, with the pregame show starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.

U-19 Boys Schedule:
7/25/2010
11:30 AM
Crew Juniors
vs.
West Coast FC
Field 1
7/25/2010
11:30 AM
GSA 96 Phoenix Red
vs.
Empire USA Syracuse
Field 2
7/26/2010
11:30 AM
West Coast FC
vs.
GSA 96 Phoenix Red
Field 1
7/26/2010
11:30 AM
Empire USA Syracuse
vs.
Crew Juniors
Field 2
7/27/2010
11:30 AM
Empire USA Syracuse
vs.
West Coast FC
Field 1
7/27/2010
11:30 AM
Crew Juniors
vs.
GSA 96 Phoenix Red
Field 2
7/28/2010
8:00 PM
[TBD]
vs.
[TBD]
Field 1
 
 

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