Six Academy Sports Club teams recently competed in this year’s Target USA Cup, the largest youth football tournament in North America. This year, ohver 1,200 youth teams from around the world competed on the 860-acre campus of the National Sports Center in Minnesota.
Showing strong performances, two Academy teams narrowly missed out on the championship final and several others performed well in their respective quarter-final matches.
“Despite the 2-year hiatus from our annual overseas competitions, the club has again demonstrated that our homegrown footballers can compete at a very high level,” said Virgil Seymour, Technical Director of the Academy.
The Academy boys U15 lost 3-2 in a hard-fought semi-final against West Mont United Premier. After conceding the initial goal, the Academy equalized and added another to put the team up 2–1, and eventually conceded 2 goals and missed out on a place in the U15 Boys gold final.
“I’m really proud of these boys,” said Coach Nuno, the club’s U15 head coach. “They made me incredibly proud of their fighting spirit and demeanor. We fought until we had nothing left in us, and that’s all I can ask of them. I don’t I’ve never seen such a fantastic group of young players”.
Coach Nuno’s enthusiasm is not unwarranted. Prior to this year’s US Cup, the core of the Academy’s current U15 squad had won 5 of their last 6 international tournaments.
The Academy U17 boys were also fiercely competitive, and after conceding the opening goal of their semi-final at Minnesota Rush, an Anthony Ebanks Thomas equalizing header sent Cayman and other spectators roaring on court 13. The team fought well with the game still at 1-1 after 10 minutes of added time, but lost their place in the U17 Boys Gold final in a penalty shootout.
The Academy U19s played well during the tournament and narrowly missed out on a place in the semi-finals with a 2-1 loss to Fire SC Liverpool. The team put up strong performances in the first round with 2 intense draws against teams from Minnesota and Texas before posting a huge 15-0 victory in their last game to advance to the quarter-finals. Due to their outstanding performances, several players from the U19 and U17 teams have attracted the interest of university coaches during scouting matches with older players.
Paul Byles, head of the Academy’s youth program and coach of the U19 and U17 boys was very pleased with the group’s performance this year.
After missing out on international competition for 2 years due to COVID, we feel we haven’t taken the leap in our competitiveness at all. The teams have consistently demonstrated that they are top 4 in their respective age groups at the highest level in international tournaments and that is very impressive from a development perspective.
The coaches are also extremely proud of how our U17 girls have prepared and competed in this year’s USA Cup/
The Academy U17 girls competed in the U17 Silver Cup and also showed strong performances, growing throughout the tournament.
“The girls played very well considering that many of them hadn’t had this type of experience before and many of the girls were younger than the U17s,” explained coach Paulo who led the U17 girls’ and boys’ teams during the tournament. “As a club we are very focused on developing our women’s program and I’m very proud of the performances during the tournament.”
Cayman’s 101-man contingent also included ESM men’s U10 and U13 teams, with the U13 boys advancing to the quarter-finals.