Kaleigh Riehl (18) and Carlyn Baldwin (4) made the U.S. U-20 Women's National Team World Cup roster.
Under-18 BRYC teammates part of 21-player United States roster
FRISCO, Texas (July 19, 2014) — While most players practiced in their hometowns alongside club teammates in preparation for the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard, Carlyn Baldwin and Kaleigh Riehl took a slightly different approach.
The Under-18 BRYC 95 Elite (VA) teammates have been more than 2,300 miles away from their Fairfax, Va., based club, training at the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team camp in Seattle. And just four days before the National Championships in Germantown, Md., the two players received word they’ll have another big soccer event to play in this summer.
Baldwin and Riehl are two of 21 players selected by Under-20 coach Michelle French who will travel to Canada in August to play for the United States in the 2014 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. For the pair, it’s hard to imagine a better summer.
“Kaleigh and I have known each other since we were 10 years old, and our dream was to go to Nationals with our club team and also play in World Cups,” Baldwin said. “It really is a dream come true for both of us to have these opportunities at the club level and with the Youth National Teams. This summer has been absolutely incredible, and we’re excited to see what happens at Nationals and at the World Cup.”
Following a mandatory rest period at the conclusion of the U.S. Under-20 camp, Baldwin and Riehl will be available for a potential BRYC semifinal game at the National Championships. The two players add to an experienced BRYC team that claimed the 2012 Under-16 Girls National title and is making its third straight appearance at the National Championships. The growing success in the last few years is a testament to the philosophy of BRYC and coach Larry Best.
Best said the club’s goal is to develop players up so they’re peaking when going into college. At 18 and 17 years old, respectively, Baldwin and Riehl are two of five U.S. players young enough to be age-eligible for the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
“It starts with them as players. They’ve always had goals and objectives to get to that level,” Best said. “These are kids who have developed and blossomed in the last year and a half based on their work ethic and everything they wanted to achieve.”
The work put in by Baldwin, Riehl and their BRYC teammates has led to many opportunities and successes as a team. Following the 2012 National Championship, the side compiled back-to-back US Youth Soccer National League titles — going 6-0-1 each of the last two seasons.
And although they came up short at last year’s National Championships, Riehl said the experiences at the championships have been “incredible.”
“Nationals mean a lot to us,” Riehl said. “The venues are great. We play on great fields. The luncheon is fantastic and gets everyone pumped. I think we really want to come out and perform well again, especially since this is our last year — we want to leave on a positive note.”
Both the players and Best said the positives of the National Championships aren’t limited to capturing the title. The BRYC coach said the power of playing in big games and learning how to win those matches can never be underestimated. Best said it’s important for players to learn to compete for 90 minutes, and he believes the competition at Nationals creates a platform for his players’ success by pushing them to manage a full game.
That setting allows for other interested coaches to see players like Baldwin, a Tennessee commit, and Riehl, a Penn State commit, and observe how they handle the pressure in an intense environment.
“College coaches and U.S. Soccer scouts are just naturally drawn to events like the US Youth Soccer National Championships and US Youth Soccer National League because every team there is top quality and filled with the best players from around the country,” Baldwin said. “Being able to play against those players is great preparation.”
As Best said, Baldwin and Riehl’s determination to achieve their goals helped create those opportunities for exposure at the club level, which has carried over to their recent success at the National Team level.
The BRYC teammates are part of a U.S. roster full of US Youth Soccer alumnae, including Rose Lavelle, whose three goals at the 2014 US Youth Soccer Region II Championships helped Team Chicago Botafogo qualify for this year’s Nationals. The United States begins its Under-20 World Cup campaign at 7 p.m. ET on Aug. 5 against Germany in Edmonton.
But before they can think about the World Cup, Riehl and Baldwin will be focused on Germantown. Though Baldwin said it will be tough missing the group games, she has faith in her BRYC teammates to show their talent against some difficult opponents.
“Every year we’ve been at Nationals, the competition has been phenomenal,” Baldwin said. “Winning the National Championships — that momentum would be great because it would mean so much to us. Being on that high from winning would be fantastic. No matter what the results turn out to be, playing with our team, playing against great competition — the speed of play will be fast, as well — it will help us prepare for the World Cup.”