2013 Under-19 Boys McGuire Cup Preview
The US Youth Soccer Under-19 Boys National Championship game is full of history, and two teams will write a new chapter when they take the field at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 27 in Overland Park, Kan, in front of FOX Soccer cameras and a live TV audience to play for prestigious McGuire Cup.
Nothing symbolizes the tradition more than the fabled U-19 Boys National Championship trophy — the James P. McGuire Cup, which celebrates its 78th anniversary this year as the oldest trophy in youth sports. For the players, the game also marks the finale of their youth careers, and they’ll look to join the many talented teams that have finished their run on top.
Recent history has shown that several McGuire Cup participants have gone on to become some of the most successful young players in the country. FC Dallas rookie Walker Zimmerman, who played in the McGuire Cup final a year ago, is an example of one of the game’s alums that have flown up the ranks to the professional level.
Zimmerman understood the history associated with the U-19 Boys championship, which he played for last year as a member of GSA 93 Phoenix Red (GA).
"The McGuire Cup is something you always look at in your US Youth Soccer career. Getting to play in that final game was kind of surreal," Zimmerman said in January at the MLS SuperDraft, where he was taken seventh overall. "That’s the highest level that there is in youth soccer at the club level. It was definitely an honor to play on that stage."
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.
This year, four teams will compete for the two spots in the July 27 final and the right to play for the title. 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.
For Zimmerman, playing in the McGuire Cup final marked the perfect way to cap his youth experience and prepare him for what’s ahead in his soccer pursuits.
"It’s a dream come true. McGuire Cup was kind of the end of a youth career," Zimmerman said in January. "Draft day is like the start of a pro career. I’m definitely excited and looking forward to being on TV more and play on some bigger stages in some bigger games."
Along with Zimmerman, a few other players selected in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft recently played for the McGuire Cup. Fifth-overall pick Erik Hurtado was among the final four teams in 2010 as a member of Westside Metros Internationals (OR). Eriq Zavaleta, the 10th pick, was part of the Crew Juniors (OH-S) team that beat Zimmerman’s GSA squad in last year’s final. And the 11th selection in the draft, Dillon Powers, played for an Andromeda 91 Navy (TX-N) squad that was among the four U-19 Boys teams in 2010.
Crew Juniors have also produced several homegrown players that have advanced to the Columbus Crew’s first team roster, including Chad Barson, Ben Speas and Wil Trapp. Barson and Speas were members of Crew’s 2010 McGuire Cup championship side, and Trapp scored the stunning game winner in last year’s final.
These promising young players aren’t the first McGuire Cup alums to have success in professional soccer, and with many promising players competing for the title this season, it’s unlikely the achievements will stop here.
Michael Lussier, coach of Region IV champions Pateadores ANA (CA-S), first heard of the McGuire Cup as a teenager living in California when he read about a nearby team that won the title. That team was led by Joe-Max Moore, who went on play in Europe, the MLS and for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Now, Lussier is thrilled that his players have the chance to play for such a revered prize.
"Reading about the McGuire Cup and reading about the game was the first time I had heard of it. I was so impressed with the level of competition," Lussier said. "In my mind, growing up and eventually becoming a coach, it’s just one of those trophies that you aspire to compete for, but you know the chances to have that opportunity are very small."
The four remaining teams have earned their chance. The only question left to be answered is who makes the most of their opportunity in Overland Park and hoists the McGuire Cup as U-19 Boys National Champions.