The 2011-12 Development Academy Playoffs commence this week at the FC Dallas Stadium Complex, marking the fourth year of the Playoffs format where the top 32 teams from the U-17/18 and U-15/16 divisions are vying to advance to Finals Week in Houston this July. Finals Week will crown the fifth champion at each age group since the inception of the Development Academy in 2007.
In the history of the Development Academy’s postseason process, CASL Chelsea FC Academy enters with the most successful track record in qualifying for both the Academy Playoffs and Finals Week. CASL Chelsea’s U-17/18 team has qualified in all four previous Finals Weeks and is participating in its fourth straight Academy Playoffs. The club’s U-15/16 team also has been a part of every Academy Playoffs and three of the four Academy Finals Weeks.
Looking back at 2010-11 Academy Playoffs:
To earn the right to play for the Development Academy Finals Week championship, teams must make it through the Academy Playoffs as one of eight group winners. With just three games to finish on top of the group, each game is meaningful in the overall tournament.
During 2010-11 Academy Playoffs, several groups went down to the wire on the final day of competition. In the U-17/18 age group, New York Red Bulls Academy pulled out a last-day, winner-take-all victory against Real Salt Lake AZ in Group 2 action. The Red Bulls were able to snag a 2-0 lead by halftime and eventually secured a 3-0 win and a trip to Finals Week in a physical match that featured five yellow cards and an ejection.
In a close race in Group 4, the Dallas Texas and Arsenal FC both earned wins on the last day of competition with the two clubs ending level with seven points each atop the group. Dallas Texans, by way of a 4-1 win against Charlotte Soccer Academy, edged Arsenal by the slightest of margins with a plus-7 goal differential, one ahead of Arsenal.
Despite scoring an Academy Playoffs-high 11 total goals, Seattle Sounders FC couldn’t get past Baltimore Bays Chelsea in a winner-take-all matchup, losing 2-0. Baltimore Bays Chelsea conceded just one goal in three games during the Academy Playoffs – the best defensive performance by any U-17/18 team.
Group 8 also went down to yet another winner-take-all final showdown, highlighting the high-stakes nature of the Development Academy Playoffs. CASL Chelsea FC, which ended the 2010-11 regular season with an undefeated 12-0-2 record in Atlantic Division play, took a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute against Albertson SC before netting a 90th-minute insurance goal to put CASL through to Finals Week.
In the U-15/16 age group, three groups were decided by one point and just three clubs earned full points through their three matchups.
Real So Cal scored twice in the first 10 minutes of a final-day match against De Anza Force, eventually earning a 3-0 win and a one-point Group 4 advantage over FC DELCO.
In Group 6, Real Salt Lake AZ scored a tournament-high 13 goals, netting seven of those in a win against group runner-up FC Westchester on the final day of competition.
PA Classics, the 2010-11 U-15/16 Academy runners-up, needed some late-game magic to hold onto the top spot in Group 7 and ensure their run. With the Chicago Fire on its tail in the group, PA Classics trailed 1-0 in its last match against North Meck SC. Two goals in the final 12 minutes secured a 2-1 win and a trip to Finals Week.
2010-11 Finals Week Rewind:
The Pateadores U-17/18 Academy team’s Jose Villareal scored both goals to lead his team to a 2-1 championship victory against FC Dallas at Valley Fields in Milwaukee, Wis. Pateadores, overcame a huge points deficit and finished the campaign with 14 wins from its final 16 matches.
The LA Galaxy U-15/16 Academy team defeated PA Classics 4-1 to win the 2010-11 Development Academy Championship, breaking a 1-1 tie with three unanswered goals. One goal came from Justin Dhillon, who lead his team with 20 goals during the regular season and returns to the U-15/16 team for 2012.
Other previous champions:
Indiana United of Carmel, Ind., is the only team to have earned a championship at both age groups in the Development Academy Finals Week. The 2008-09 U-17/18 team and the 2007-08 U-15/16 team captured crowns.
Crew Soccer Academy Wolves (2008-09) and the Chicago Fire (2009-10) won titles at U-15/16 and Baltimore Bays (2007-08) and Vardar SC Freiburg (2009-10) earned championships at U-17/18. The LA Galaxy’s U-15/16 team of 2010-11 put an end to the Midwest’s dominance of that age group.
The U-17/18 Academy games consist of two 45-minute halves and a 15-minute halftime. The U-15/16 age group’s matches incorporate two 40-minute halves and a 10-minute halftime. Teams can make a maximum of seven substitutions and no re-entry is permitted. Each game day roster is capped at 18 players.
Development Academy Finals Week champions:
2007-08: Baltimore Bays (now Baltimore Bays Chelsea)
2008-09: Carmel United (now Indiana United)
2009-10: Vardar SC (now Vardar SC Freiburg)
2007-08: Carmel United (now Indiana United)
2008-09: Derby County Wolves (now Crew Soccer Academy Wolves)
2009-10: Chicago Fire
2010-11: LA Galaxy