FRISCO, Texas (Feb. 23, 2023) - In a long-anticipated return to tournament competition, the Olympic Development Program (ODP) Boys National Select Teams battled some of the best teams in the country at Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup this past week.
Led by a collection of some of the most talented players inside of US Youth Soccer, the 2009 and 2010 Boys were insistent on earning a place in the storied competition’s history under the bright lights of Sin City.
During the 16th year of the Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup, the Olympic Development Program’s 2009 Boys National Select Team added its name alongside some of the legendary former champions after winning the U15 2008 Chapman Auto Group.
Playing up a year, they never flinched -- not even in the face of adversity after narrowly losing the opening match to Canadian team CS St-Laurent 2008M in a back-and-forth affair.
Putting the initial defeat in the rearview and demonstrating a resiliency commonly found in championship teams, the 2009s bounced back a few hours later. Facing San Nicolas Academy 2008 (NV), the National Select Team’s persistence made all the difference. Graham Ford (UT) and Sandro Cunningham’s (NJ) goals, assisted by Elvin Bajrektarevic (IA) and Christopher Munoz (CA-N), respectively, led to a shutout victory and jumpstarted this team’s run.
Playing with confidence and swagger after rebounding Saturday afternoon, the 2009s defeated both Albion SC Merced B08 Academy (CA-N) and Solar Soccer Club ECNL Deleon (TX-N) during Sunday’s last group stage and quarterfinal matches. Munoz and Cunningham each added to their tallies, while Rodrigo Lozada (MI) and Hunter Peralta (HI) also got in on the action.
Squaring off against CDA Slammers ECNL B08 (CA-S) in the semifinals, the National Select Team found themselves behind for the first time since the opening match. The same resiliency that helped them reach the knockout stage surfaced again, as Christopher Munoz leveled the game and sent it to penalty kicks. In a tense shootout, keeper Maverick Deutsch (CA-S) saved two penalties while Ethan Nonthaveth (WA) added the decisive kick to send the National Select Team through to the finals.
In their sixth and final game in three days, the 2009 Boys mustered up every last bit of energy they had. Up against Players SC 08 Elite (NV), the National Select Team’s depth made the difference in the championship match. Replacing the starting keeper Deutsch, Nick Surdenik (MI) stepped in after the intermission and heroically led the team to a second win in penalty kicks to crown them as Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup champions.
In a bracket featuring some of the top-ranked teams in the country, the National Select Team’s run to the quarterfinals in the U14 2009 Chapman Auto Group -- while playing up a year -- caught the eye of many spectators. From the very first game, the 2010s showed that they traveled to Las Vegas with one goal in mind. Zamir Loyo (NV), Eli Georgas (TX-S), and Frederic Bond (GA) each scored in the opening match against Tuzos Academy 09 (AZ) to cement an impressive shutout victory, and the National Select Team used the momentum from that first game to notch a second 3-0 win against top-ranked Albion SC Merced B09 MLS NEXT (CA-N) just hours later to cap off a perfect Saturday.
In the second day of competition, the 2010s followed up the previous day’s two shutout victories with one more. Earning a hard-fought 2-0 win over Heat FC ECNL B09 (LV) in the early hours on Sunday, the National Select Team booked its ticket to the quarterfinals, where their storybook run came to an end. In a competitive match against a CASA Inter Sandoval 2009 (CO) team that fielded three full-time MLS NEXT players including Jonathan De La Fuente, the 2010s came up just short.
“We are very proud of the performances of the National Select Teams on and off the field, as they both advanced out of their group and positively reacted to the adversity they faced,” said Senior Manager of ODP Aaron Heffernan. “This experience assisted in the facilitation of their development and was instrumental in exposing them to the next level of their chosen pathway. We want to thank the Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup staff and volunteers for being great hosts.”
About the United States Youth Soccer Association (US Youth Soccer)
US Youth Soccer
, the largest youth sport organization in the country, is on a mission to provide world-class support, resources, and leadership, helping every member fulfill their goals on and off the field of play. US Youth Soccer registers nearly 2.5 million players annually. Through its programming, resources and leadership, US Youth Soccer is advancing the game for its 54 Member State Associations, 10,000 clubs and leagues and one million administrators, coaches, and volunteers. US Youth Soccer connects families and communities to the power of sports and its shared love of soccer. US Youth Soccer provides a path for every player, coach and referee offering programs that provide a fun, safe and healthy environment at every level of the game.