U17 Boys Champions League Preview: 2019
After a long break winter break, league action is now back in Northern California as the NPL resumes with games all across the state this Spring for girls from the U14-U19 age groups. Culminating with the NPL Spring College Showcase at Davis Legacy Soccer Complex on May 18-19, the NPL features some of the highest level of play in the country. The top two teams for the U14-U17 age groups and the first place finisher in the U19 division on the boys side will qualify for US Club Soccer’s ENPL playoffs from June 28-July 2 in Rockford, Ill.
CALIFORNIA ODYSSEY RED
Head Coach: Cameron Shahrokhi
Led by 2018 Gothia Cup PDP roster selection Christian Silva up top, California Odyssey scored the most goals in the NPL 1 South to finish in second place and claim a spot in the Champions League. Odyssey hit the back of the net 20 times on the year in just six games, but still only managed to go 3-1-2, showing that some improvement may be needed in order to truly challenge for titles in the spring. Still, Odyssey only allowed nine goals in the fall and could be among those who are near the top of the table when it’s all said and done.
FORCE ACADEMY II
Head Coach: Roheet Sen
Dropping points just once all fall, De Anza Force cruised to the NPL 1 South title with a 6-0-1 record, 19 goals scored, and just eight allowed. Winning the division with an eight point margin, Force posted double the amount of victories as anyone else in the division and will be among one of the favorites for the Champions League title thanks to a bedrock that includes defenders Tim Rast and Christian Corcoran and goalkeeper Chris Zeren, whose technical ability and distribution allows Force to play the open and attacking style that they prefer.
NAPA SOCCER ACADEMY
Head Coach: Erik Franco
After just missing out on the Champions League last year, Napa Soccer Academy topped the NPL 1 North to emphatically qualify for NorCal’s top division this spring. In a division that had the top five teams within four points of each other, Napa stood alone at the top despite their relatively tame plus-two goal differential. Should Napa compete for titles in the spring, they will rely on the versatility of striker Erik Vargas, the skill of midfielders Christian Ceja and Angelo Dominguez, and the leadership of goalkeeper Sucre Herrera.
SACRAMENTO UNITED RED
Head Coach: Andrew Bailey
After starting slow, Sacramento United rebounded and finished the Fall season off strong to claim third place and a Champions League spot. Frederick Allen’s five goals in the Fall led the United attack which scored 15 goals in only six games. Armando Jimenez and Julian Churchill will anchor what should be one of the stronger midfields in the league as Sac United will look to challenge for their clubs 5th NPL boys title.
SAN JUAN LIGHTNING BLUE
Head Coach: Derek Evans
Putting up some of the best results in all of 2018, San Juan Lightning managed an impressive run that saw them both lift last year’s State Cup title and win 25 games in a row at one point. But in the fall’s NPL 1 North, they struggled a bit, going 3-2-1 to just qualify for the Champions League. With a strong defense that led the NPL 1 North in goals against with just seven in six games, center back Christian Powell leads a quality side that will be in any game thanks to its penchant for keeping the ball out of the back of its own net.
SANTA CLARA SPORTING GREEN
Head Coach: Justin Slaven
In a close NPL 1 South division, Santa Clara Sporting just snuck into the Champions League despite falling in both of its last two fixtures of the fall. Struggling with injuries in the fall, Sporting still managed to post the best defensive record in their division, allowing just four goals in six games thanks to a back line led by center back Myles Thomas. Now nearing full health, Santa Clara should be able to compete with the best in the Champions League and finally be back to running on all cylinders.
SF ELITE ACADEMY
Head Coach: Bobby Quinlan
With a strong 3-1-2 finish in the fall, SF Elite Academy just missed out on finishing in first place in the NPL 1 North in what was a strong division overall. Featuring a squad full of players who are unflappable under pressure, SF Elite were led by two-way central midfielder Alex Bonville, who both helped an attack that scored 13 goals and helped shield a defense that ranked as the third best in their fall division.With the fall season so close in the standings, expect every team in the U17 Champions League to be in contention for the title, including SF Elite.
STAR ACADEMY FC I
Head Coach: Enrique Rosales
Though Star Academy allowed the most goals out of any Champions League qualifying side and featured a negative goal differential in a tough NPL 1 South season, they got the results when it mattered the most. Star finished 3-3-1 in the fall and hit the back of the net 17 times, but will need to shore up a defense that allowed 19 goals if they have title aspirations. Still, they got to this point on merit and will be a tough out for any side in the Champions League.