The RSL-Arizona Academy Under-16 and Under-18 Teams performed impressively at the US Soccer Development Academy Playoffs, which took place across the last week at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Both squads earned the right to head to Pizza Hut Park to participate among the top 32 teams in their respective age divisions after completing the Development Academy’s regular season schedule, the U-16s as one of the SoCal Division’s two automatic qualifiers after a second-place finish (11-6-1), and the U-18s (9-6-3) as the second-seed of 12 “wild card” selections with the highest points-per-game total across the 10 divisions.
Both RSL-Arizona Academy teams would finish out their three games of group play in Frisco with a berth to theDevelopment Academy National Championships – aka “Finals Week” – on the line, but only the U-16s were able to qualify for the USSDA season’s ultimate tournament, set to take place at three locations across Milwaukee, Wis., from July 9-16.
The RSL-AZ Academy U-16s began pool play last Saturday with a 4-1 win over Baltimore Bays Chelsea before settling for a 2-2 draw with Charlotte Soccer Academy the following day, setting up a winner-take-all affair with FC Westchester on Tuesday. The drama would carry through to halftime with RSL-AZ bringing just a 1-0 lead into the break, but a second half explosion would see five players combine for six goals, punctuating their ticket to Finals Week with a 7-0 thrashing. Ben Spencer would tally in all three games en route to a team-high five goals in the tournament, with seven different players scoring at least once to help the squad advance to Milwaukee.
The RSL-AZ Academy U-18s got off to a bright start in their group, earning an impressive 3-0 victory over Chicago-based powerhouse Sockers FC on Friday and a 4-0 drubbing of Cal Odyssey (Fresno) on Saturday, setting up a battle of undefeateds against a fellow MLS academy opponent, the New York Red Bulls, on Monday morning. Unlike their U-16 brethren, the RSL-AZ U-18s would fall behind after 20 minutes and proved unable to catch up, as the Red Bulls would post a 3-0 victory, abruptly ending the RSL-AZ Academy U-18s’ successful inaugural season in the US Soccer Development Academy.