Clubs from the NPSL’s Gulf Coast and Southeast Conferences have offered U-16 and U-19 programming as a complement to their first teams.
The 2022 NPSL U-16 competition featured Florida Roots FC, New Orleans Jesters, and Southern States SC.
“We were very pleased to be a part of the inaugural NPSL U-16 program which afforded us the chance to build a team that is separate and distinct from other playing opportunities, e.g. school and club teams,” Roots Owner and President Jonathan Hammond said. “We fielded a talented group of boys and bonded as a team while playing opponents from Hattiesburg and New Orleans. These opponents exposed our group of boys to different schemes and scenarios of play and gave them a wider perspective as to the talent that the southeast region has to offer. Lessons are always learned when one steps outside of their familiar comfort zone to play different teams, on different fields, in different cities.”
The Roots experienced immediate success at the U-16 level.
“We trained very hard to have such great success, winning the inaugural U-16 championship this spring, especially with the high level of play our opponents offered,” Hammond added. “The boys were proud of their hard work and success and are looking forward to the next season. And as the league grows, we look forward to playing more teams throughout the region.”
Teams participating in the 2022 NPSL U-19 competition included Florida Roots FC, Georgia Revolution FC, Georgia Storm, New Orleans Jesters, North Alabama SC, Southern States SC, and Tallahassee SC.
The Revolution have seen the benefits of competing at the U-19 stage.
“The U-19 program has given us a great platform to transition our players from youth into adult soccer,” Georgia Revolution FC U-19 Head Coach Alec Morrison said. “Our U-19s are made up of players that are currently freshman in college, committed to play in college this fall, and our juniors and seniors that are ready to play at this level. It’s a great experience for our younger players that get to be on a team with current college players. And for our players that are already committed to play in college this fall, this program is perfect for preparing them for the high demands of the college game. The players can now go into their fall seasons prepared, and hopefully return next NPSL season ready to fight for a first team spot.”
The Revs have used doubleheaders to showcase their matches with other teams from the Southeast Conference. It has added to the gameday experience for fans and players alike.
“Having the doubleheaders has helped connect our U-19s to the senior team,” Morrison said. “The players stay for the second game, and they get a chance to learn from our most experienced players. Having the 19s in the stands has also really pushed energy into the crowd. The kids love to have fun, and we’re glad to provide an experience that shows that they aren’t just part of a team, but a club.”
Overall U-16 and U-19 programming has added value for the clubs and the league, growing brands and the game with a unique developmental platform.
Photo Credit: Florida Roots FC and Juan Cervantes/Georgia Revolution FC