MLS clubs will be aiming for a clean sweep of the national championships up for grabs at the US Soccer Federation Development Academy Under-18 and Under-16 Finals which kick off on Saturday in Milwaukee.
The LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake will be competing at the U-16 level, while the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas are vying for the U-18 crown.
Two groups of four teams will be featured at each age level with the group winners squaring off in the finals on Friday, July 16.
The Red Bulls and FC Dallas could meet in the Under-18 final after both were drawn in separate groups. Meanwhile, the MLS and US Open Cup rivalries between the Galaxy and Sounders will spill over into Group 1 of the U-16s, where the two teams were paired up.
Red Bulls U-18 coach Paul O’Donnell leads a very talented side boasting a crop of stars including forward Brandon Allen, the nation’s leading goal-scorer among U-18s, midfielder Dan Metzger and defender Bryan Gallego with the latter two heading off to Maryland and Akron, respectively, in the fall.
In the other U-18 group, FC Dallas are expected to be a force, as Director of Youth Development and U-18 coach Oscar Pareja will continue to use the Development Academy to bring along Home Grown signings Moises Hernandez, Jonathan Top and Victor Ulloa, not to mention captain and central defender Jack Coleman, who along with Hernandez was named to the U-18 Development Academy Best XI.
The Seattle Sounders U-16s are looking to finish their season on a high, after winning the Northwest Division title. Leading goal-scorer Jesse Klug’s 13 goals provide the offensive spark, but it’s a real team effort that has led Seattle to this point.
Real Salt Lake AZ are led by U-16 Development Academy Coach of the Year Mike Muñoz and U-16 Development Academy Best XI defender Julio Alarcon. They take on the North Carolina Fusion, PA Classics and CASL Chelsea FC in Group 2.
Under-18 Group 1: New York Red Bulls, PDA, Dallas Texans, Pateadores
Under-18 Group 2: FC Dallas, Weston FC, Baltimore Bays Chelsea, CASL Chelsea FC
Under-16 Group 1: Dallas Texans, Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, Real So Cal
Under-16 Group 2: North Carolina Fusion, Real Salt Lake AZ, PA Classics, CASL Chelsea FC
U-18 Development Academy Best XI (4-3-3): Jesus Guzman (San Jose Earthquakes) -- Javan Torre (Pateadores, California), Jack Coleman (FC Dallas), Bryan Gallego (New York Red Bulls), Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas) -- Marvin Iraheta (Cosmos Academy West), Wil Trapp (Crew Soccer Academy), Christian Hernandez (PDA) -- Villyan Bijev (Cal Odyssey), Maikon Orrellana (Real Salt Lake AZ), Xavi Silva (Weston FC, Florida)
U-16 Development Academy Best XI (4-3-3): Alex Bono (Empire United) -- Jose Ocampo (Crossfire Premier), Julio Alarcon (Real Salt Lake AZ), Oscar Sorto (Pateadores), Jalen Robinson (D.C. United) -- Holden Fender (Concorde Fire), Collin Martin (D.C. United), Raul Mendiola (Arsenal FC) -- Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution), Kekuta Manneh (Texas Rush AJ Auxerre), Roberto Escudero (Pateadores)
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.