It’s been quite a debut for the Republic FC’s three fledgling Academy teams under academy director Rod Underwood and manager Jeremy Field.
The 17 to 18 year olds and 15 to 16 year olds qualified for the United States Soccer Development Academy Program playoffs June 22-26 in Frisco, Texas, while the 13 to 14s team had the club’s best overall record of 19-4-2 during the regular season.
Republic FC’s inaugural 17/18 team, coached by Ben Ziemer, earned an automatic bid after finishing second in the Development Academy’s Western Conference Northwest Division. Republic FC finished behind the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 17/18s, a well-established residency program.
Sacramento’s 15/16 team, coached by Brian Willey, qualified as a wild-card team after beating the Seattle Sounders FC 15/16s 3-0 on the final day of the regular season June 4. The 15-16s finished fifth in the Northwest Division.
While standings aren’t kept and there is no postseason play for the Academy 13/14 clubs, Republic FC’s squad, coached by Simon Elliott, finished the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. The squad will participate in the 13/14 Academy Summer Showcase June 20-23 at the Toyota Center.
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle said the trip to Texas for the youth teams will be a nice reward for the players and staff.
“It seems five minutes ago that we were talking to all the parents in the age groups and meeting all the players for the first time,” Buckle said. “The Academy guys have done a brilliant job.”
The Republic FC 17/18 team (17-8-7) will play in Group C with the New York Red Bulls (18-4-4), Sockers FC (17-5-3) of Chicago and the Pateadores Soccer Club (18-11-7) of Irvine. Sacramento opens the tournament 7:30 p.m. June 22 against Sockers FC.
The Sacramento (16-13-3) 15/16 team is in Group D along with the Crew SC Wolves (17-5-3) of Wixom, Mich., the Montreal Impact (14-5-7) and Real So Cal SC (20-11-4) of Granada Hills. Republic FC opens at 5 p.m. on June 22 against the Crew SC Wolves.
The tournament is being held at the 17-field Toyota Center, also the home of FC Dallas.
The winners of each group in the respective 32-team tournaments will advance to the knockout rounds of the Development Academy postseason that starts on July 6 and 7 at host sites. The Academy championship matches will be held July 14 and 16 at the StubHub Center in Carson.
Eight Republic FC Academy players also were called up to their respective youth national teams during the season.
“It’s early days,” Buckle said. “It’s been a brilliant start with what we’ve done. Now it’s about taking it to the next level. The long goal is to have players (reach) the first team. Then the academy becomes a really useful tool to the club.”
A a new streak? – Republic FC will try to start a new stretch of USL home sellouts when it plays first-year Rio Grande Valley FC Toros on Saturday night at Bonney Field.
Sacramento saw its 36-consecutive-match USL home sellout streak end in last Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Real Monarchs SLC at Bonney Field in front of an announced crowd of 10,745. Capacity at the Cal Expo stadium is 11,569.
Sacramento had announced sellouts during 32 regular season and four postseason home matches. It also was only Sacramento’s second non-sellout league match dating back to the second home match of the 2014 season when Republic FC drew 17,414 against the Orange County Blues FC at 20,231-seat Hughes Stadium.
The game was played in unseasonably cold and windy night and the Golden State Warriors were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals on TV. But Republic FC spokesperson Erika Bjork said the biggest misconception some fans have is that the matches are sold out well advance. She said the team typically sells between 500 to 1,200 single-game tickets for each match.