Local teams ready for Midwest Regional
Central Ohio club soccer teams didn't fare well in the Midwest Regional Cup a year ago. Only two of nine local squads advanced to a semifinal, only one reached a final and none emerged as a champion.
Despite that subpar showing, Ohio Premier Eagles U14 boys coach Mike Lawrence is confident area teams will fare better in this year's tournament, which will be held Saturday, June 23, through Wednesday, June 27, in Saginaw, Mich.
"This might be the best year for (local) teams as far as talented teams going to regional," Lawrence said. "This is the best group of teams as a whole that we've sent to the Regional Cup, and I would be shocked if two or three of our teams don't win Regional Cups because we're capable of having that kind of success there this year."
More than 270 preliminary games will be played as boys and girls US Youth Soccer State Cup champions, select wildcards and Midwest Regional League qualifiers in the U13 through U19 age groups compete. All of the age divisions have been divided into three- or four-team brackets, and every team will play a game within its bracket Saturday, June 23, Sunday, June 24, and Monday, June 25.
The bracket winners will move on to semifinals Tuesday, June 26, with regional finals to be held Wednesday, June 27.
Regional champions in the U14 through U19 age groups advance to the US Youth Soccer Association National Championships on July 23-29 in Rock Hill, S.C.
"You need to play well and have some things go your way," Blast FC girls U17 coach Mohamood Razack said. "If you get a good draw you never know how far you can go, because that's a big part of it."
Local squads that won State Cup championships to advance to the Regional Cup were the Ohio Premier Eagles U14 boys, Classics Eagles U15 boys, Classics Eagles U17 boys, Blast FC U18 boys, Crew Juniors U19 boys, Blast FC U17 girls and OP Elite U19 girls.
The Classics Eagles U16 boys team qualified as a State Cup tournament wildcard.
This will be the fourth Regional Cup appearance for the local members of the OP Elite U19 girls, as the Ohio Premier Eagles made it three times before merging with Ohio Elite this year.
It will be the second appearance for the Blast FC U17 girls and the third for the Blast FC U18 boys, who won a Regional Cup title in 2009.
"A lot of these (local) teams and many of their coaches are bringing a wealth of experience to this tournament, so I like our chances overall," Classics Eagles club director and U16 boys coach Mike Lentz said. "The difference between the teams at this level is so small that it often comes down to attention to detail such as marking and getting back on defense.
"It always helps to get a lucky bounce or timely call that goes your way, but it really comes down to who takes advantage of their opportunities. The great teams will find a way to score when their opponents make mistakes."