With two former Academy players taking the step to the pro ranks this past year the dozens more will look to make their mark in the USSDA Group Stage. Frisco, Texas and FC Dallas play host to the Summer Playoffs so one challenge will be the heat. The bigger challenge will be facing off against the best of the national Academy system when only the best team of the four team groups advance to the knockout stage.
The U18s face PDA (a Union affiliate), Real So Cal and the IMG Academy. PDA put forward a strong season with a 19-3-3 +34 GD record to finish second in the Atlantic. Their leading scorer is forward Alec Neumann with 17 goals. Real So Cal (not related to RSL) finished third in the Southwest at 17-7-4 +14. IMG was fourth in the Southeast at 13-7-5 +26.
Seattle's 18s were led by Jordan Morris' 25 goals in 25 games, which was good for second in the nation. At 16-6-6 the Sounders were second in the Northwest to Vancouver and had a +30 goal differential.
The younger Sounders are in slightly tougher group with the powerful Crew Soccer Academy Wolves (19-4-4 +29), Real So Cal (17-8-3 +30) and Orlando City SC (13-8-4 +7). It will be a bit of a compounded challenge as a few kids that qualify as 16s for Seattle play up at the 18 level. Still, the youngest formal team of the organization (there is a pre-Academy and next year a U14 starts) went 17-4-7 +30.
Again, to advance a team must win its Group. While there is little rivalry in these matches, unlike games against Portland, Vancouver and Crossfire in the regular season, there is pressure. Scouts for both pro and college sides will be watching the matches as well.