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U-13/14 Futsal Prepares for L.A. Invitational

Academy Director of Scouting Tony Lepore Reflects on Successful U-13/14 Philadelphia Futsal Event in Early March

Academy Director of Scouting Tony Lepore Reflects on Successful U-13/14 Philadelphia Futsal Event in Early March

As the U.S. Soccer Development Academy gears up for the launch of its 2013-14 Under-13/14 season, club teams are participating in an integral futsal element that features two invitational events.

U.S. Soccer’s first futsal invitational, in partnership with Nike, took place from March 1-3 at the Competitive Edge Sports Complex in King of Prussia, Pa. The New York Red Bulls U-13/14 Academy team won the event and New York-based BW Gottschee was the runner-up.

Now the futsal element heads to the west coast as U-13/14 boys’ and girls’ teams will compete at an invitational from April 20-24 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. If the first event is any indication, the Los Angeles-based invitational should be a tremendous developmental benefit for the players, coaches and clubs.

“The futsal was fantastic and all of the kids had a great time,” said Development Academy Director of Scouting Tony Lepore. “It was competitive and the kids were into it and enjoyed it. For all of the reasons that we wanted to implement futsal, we had a chance to see the kids on the ball a lot. It was a little bit of an adjustment for some teams and the players who have very little futsal experience, but you could watch the kids and teams improve and get the hang of it.”

Lepore helped scout the Philadelphia event and said he and technical advisor Rodrigo Marion identified about a dozen to 15 players.

“It was a great setting to get to know the players and see their technical skills and creativity,” Lepore said. “Futsal is a creative skill game, so these types of players stood out.”

Along with the actual games, coaches had the privilege of meeting with U.S. Futsal National Team head coach Keith Tozer.

“All the coaches benefited from Keith’s seminar a couple weeks prior, where he had great classroom and on-field sessions for the coaches,” Lepore said. “They had a lot of good questions, so that was helpful. You could see them applying those concepts.”

Throughout the Academy and among U.S. Soccer’s National Teams, a greater emphasis is placed on possession-oriented style of play, and futsal hones in on this approach from the front line to the goalkeeper.

“For our style of play with our Youth National Teams, the goalkeeper is used as a sweeper, so they have to be good with their feet, and that translates really well with futsal,” Lepore said. “In futsal, the players take 12 times as many touches than a soccer game and the ball stays on the ground.”

The first futsal event gauged where clubs were in their futsal knowledge, and Lepore is eager to see how much this will grow when it becomes part of the foundation in the U-13/14 age group’s 10-month season.

“For the BW Gottschee team that went to the final, you could tell that they were the most natural futsal players,” Lepore said. “A lot of it is adjusting to the tactics and adjusting to the rules, when you can pass back to your goalkeeper. There were certain elements that they had a better grasp of than others. The futsal is already a part of their training program. We’re excited that everyone is going to have this for two months as part of their training during the Academy season.”