FC Europa’s 2006 boys teams is back in Orlando for another crack at a US Youth Soccer National Championship this week.
Among their friends and family cheering them on from afar will be players who have moved on from the team to MLS academies like Daniel Krueger with the Philadelphia Union and Ryan Zellefrow with Portland Timbers.
Both players were key to some of the team’s past successes winning state cup trophies and advancing to regionals and beyond. But even as they have moved on, the team has been able to continue improving its play year over year.
“This group is special,” said head coach Paulo Ferreira. “In the past eight years of soccer they won four state cups and they finished first place in the National League three times. They always want the next step.”
The NCS State Cup finalists qualified for nationals via National League P.R.O. Krueger, who made his debut for Philadelphia Union II earlier this season and has been a regular in the lineup, was out at their semifinal win in May over Hunter SC 62 Blues, which also qualified for nationals.
“He’s family,” Ferreira said of Krueger. “We’re in constant communication talking about what’s going on and where he’s at in his development.”
Europa won the semifinal that day 3-1 to advance to the final, where they lost a hard fought game 2-1 to Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals.
“Those three-four years I spent with FC Europa were just what I needed,” said Krueger in an interview after training with Union II. “I joined the academy relatively late but I had such a strong foundation with that Europa team and coach Paulo Ferreira. He really helped put me on the path I’m on now.”
Krueger is in his third season with the Union. He joined the Major League Soccer team's academy midway through the 2020-2021 season but went back that summer to play with his Europa team at regionals.
“I made a promise and my coach (current Union assistant Ryan Richter) was super cool about it,” Krueger said. “I went back and we won the games to qualify for nationals.”
Krueger is one of several former FC Europa players in the Union’s academy ranks. Andrew Rick, who recently signed a pro deal with Philadelphia Union II and Antonio Horozoglou were both part of Union U-17 teams with Krueger that won an MLS Next Cup last summer and a Generation Adidas Cup this past spring. The Union’s U-15 team in the GA Cup featured former Europa teammates Alex Smith and Peter Doran.
Among the current players on the team who will try to lead them to hardware in Florida is long-timer Noah Ufberg. He scored a pair of goals in their semifinal win and had an unforgettable rope in the final.
“We qualified for nationals for a third time so we know how to win,” Ufberg said. “We love that feeling so we keep chasing it.”
Europa will face Chicago Fire Youth SC (IL), Intercontinental Football Academy of New England (MA) and Sparta United (UT) in the group stages Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Their Wednesday and Thursday games will be streamed live on Vimeo.