Four state cup champions, a regional champion and two regional finalists are among the 16 boys teams from Eastern Pennsylvania heading to Florida this weekend for the US Youth Soccer National League Conference playoffs.
A total of 16 teams from Eastern Pennsylvania are competing in the playoffs being played at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Sporting PA Thunder 2008, YMS Premier Celtic 2008, Keystone FC Premier 2007, Hex FC Dominion 2005 and Sporting PA FCE Elite 2006 all return to Orlando after competing there in the US Youth Soccer National Championships last July.
Sporting PA Thunder 2008 made it all the way to the semifinal in their age bracket, but came up short against eventual champion Utah Celtic.
“We love going down to Florida,” Caden Arnold said. “What we do is win and we want to keep winning and get to bigger stages, get back to nationals.”
The Thunder outscored opponents 9-2 over their three group games at nationals last summer.
“It’s always fun going on these type of trips with the team,” said Tyler Jaskelewicz. “We have success at ESPN too so hoping to continue that and having great team spirit down there.”
Sporting PA - a new partnership between Lower Merion SC, FC Europa and Radnor SC at the elite level - has four teams in the National League Conference Playoffs.
Sporting PA’s 2009 team was one win away from booking a spot at the national championships last year at regionals after winning the state cup in a 5-3 overtime thriller over YMS Premier Warriors, which is one of four teams from Yardley Makefield Soccer participating in the National League playoffs.
“These boys are hungry,” head coach Jamile Green said. “I’ve never seen them hurt as much as they did after that regional game so I know they’re hoping to not have that feeling again.”
While the team had success last year, the conference playoffs are a chance to play themselves into position to qualify for the national championships through National League P.R.O. Under the new format for National League in 2023, the top three teams in each four-team bracket will advance to National League P.R.O. and from there would have a chance to book a spot at nationals. Teams that advance to National League P.R.O. will have a choice to play either in Tampa in February or California in May.
Placement in conference play will be key for teams that advance to National League P.R.O. as the bracket winner would advance to the champions pool (4 teams advance to nationals) as opposed to the silver or wildcard pools for a second or third place finish (1 team in each advances).
“I think we can go a long way if we just keep our head,” said midfielder Cole Matthews. “We just gotta perform and play our best.”
YMS Premier Celtic 2008, YMS Premier Blackout 2007 and Hex FC Dominion 2005 are the other three state cup winners from 2023 in the National League playoffs.
Keystone FC Premier 2007 was the lone boys team from Eastern PA in National League to win a regional championship. Sporting PA 2009 (FC Europa Elite) and Sporting PA Thunder 2008 (Lower Merion FCE Thunder) were both regional finalists.
The Conference Playoffs for girls will be played next weekend at ESPN Wide World of Sports. There are 11 teams from Eastern Pennsylvania competing on the girls side.
Schedules for this weekend's games are available at www.usysnationalleague.com/conference-playoffs-orlando-2023.
2023 National League Boys Teams
Sporting PA 2010
YMS Premier United 2010
Keystone FC Premier 2010
Quaker Elite Magicians 2009
YMS Premier Warriors 2009
Sporting PA 2009
YMS Premier Celtic 2008
Keystone FC Premier 2008
Sporting PA Thunder 2008
Hex FC Dominion 2007
YMS Premier Blackout 2007
PA Rush 2007
Keystone FC Premier 2007
Sporting PA FCE Elite 2006
FC Revolution Knights 2006
Hex FC Dominion 2005