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Adult Premier League kicks off fall season with big aspirations

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The National Premier League. State Cup. The Player Development Program.

The above entities all have two things in common: they’re the leagues, competitions and trainings that NorCal Premier Soccer is best known for and said leagues, competitions and trainings all pertain to the development of youth players.

Take one look at NorCal’s vision statement, though, and one will realize that just focusing on the youth isn’t enough for NorCal to accomplish its lofty goals: “We ignite a lifelong passion for soccer,” the vision reads.

Keeping that statement in mind, NorCal enters yet another season of its Adult Premier League, as eight squads kicked off the fall season with a seven-game per team league schedule last month.

“Especially at the upper end of the table, the games are really good,” said APL coordinator Mark Torguson. “You’re looking at mostly Division I college guys — it’s kind of a bridge between guys who just graduated college and guys who want to be pros.”

As the third of three annual seasons (spring, summer and fall) that NorCal administers to the top men’s players in the area, this season culminates in late January, with the top four teams making the playoffs to vie for the title in the semifinal and final rounds.

Davis Legacy enter the the season as the defending champions, winning their fourth overall title in the summer with a thrilling 5-3 extra time victory over Tottenham, who aren’t participating in the fall season and have been replaced by newcomers in the Fremont Colts.apl-1

Though the current iteration of the APL features high-quality games with top players spread throughout the region, NorCal hopes to expand the level of play and scope of the league, with plans in the near future that match the gargantuan level of NorCal’s vision at the youth level.

Part of NorCal’s strategy for expansion comes through its vision to inspire every member club to field a first team — a model that the Legacy, San Ramon FC and Ballistix IFX of Pleasanton, who currently field two APL squads, have committed to for years already.

“Ideally we’d like to have the adult teams attached to the youth clubs — those kids coming through the clubs or coming back from college, or wherever they end up, need somewhere to play,” Torguson said.

Future expansion won’t be limited to just the first team of youth clubs though, as NorCal’s vision still includes supporting the stand-alone models such as those currently used by four APL clubs: Juventus SC Silicon Valley, Stanislaus United SC, Turlock Tornados Academica and the aforementioned Fremont Colts.

While NorCal Premier Soccer looks to the exciting possibilities of the future of the APL, the league’s past has already produced a multitude of success stories both on and off the field that give it the foundation of pedigree needed to move forward.

After entering the league in late 2014, supporter-owned San Francisco City FC won that year’s fall title to qualify for the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup where they drew a preliminary round record 1,419 fans in a 2-1 loss to a Cal FC side led by future Sacramento Republic FC captain, Danny Barrera.

Playing for SF City FC in that fall season, among other top players, was Dave Romney, a defender who shortly thereafter earned a contract with Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy.

apl-2Following their success as a team in the APL, the 2015 Open Cup and their ensuing qualification to the 2016 edition of the tournament, City made the jump to the Premier Development League, considered the highest-quality of the various unsanctioned fourth division leagues in the country.

Even with the departure of San Francisco, the APL has continued to thrive in providing opportunities for players with professional aspirations.

“The APL has been good because it’s a competitive league — there are lots of good players,” said Legacy head coach Adam Lewin. “It’s kind of multifunctional, how the APL works for players who are wanting to move on to a different level. It can serve as a permanent team until they get a chance or it can serve as a team that can provide them quality training, a good structure, and obviously good games whenever those players can play.

“There’s lots of local leagues which sometimes aren’t as competitive, whereas the APL usually can get some good players, some good teams out there that allows for a college-level player to come to and play and train in a good environment.”

Several of Lewin’s Legacy players have parlayed their successes in the APL into trials with USL, PDL and NPSL clubs, following Romney’s SFCFC model of a pathway to the professional ranks.

Lewin, who is not affiliated with NorCal Premier, hopes that NorCal’s grandiose vision for the future of the APL comes to fruition as he thinks that it would benefit everyone involved.

“I think there’s enormous advantage, not only for my players but all the other players and garnering interest from new players,” Lewin said of the proposed league expansion. “If you get teams and players that are looking for a more competitive environment, as long as they do well at the beginning stages, they’ll be offered that.

“For our players, and I know for a lot of players around the state, a lot of them are looking for the highest level possible.”

To view the APL’s schedule and standings, click here.

By Evan Ream. Follow @EvanReam