New York City FC's academy has grown with the club. Founded in 2015, City's youth program began play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the 2015-16 season with just a U-13/14 team. Last season, NYC's U-15/16 team qualified for the DA Playoffs in its first-ever season of eligibility. In the U-18/19 age group's inaugural campaign this year, the Blues will play for the Academy Championship.

Three of the semifinalist squad's key contributors haven't waited nearly as patiently for their rise through the Academy. Andres Jasson, Giovanni Reyna and Joseph Scally have been key contributors for NYC all season. Born in 2002, all three play above their age group. All three helped their team make it to the Academy Championships in Kansas City. And all three will look to feature for the U-17 Men's National Team as it picks up steam this fall. Teammates for both club and country, the Academy Playoffs have served as excellent international prep for the City trio.

"It really just shows you how to grind out games, how to grind out wins," Reyna said. "Every single point matters. You just have to fight for everything, fight for your team, fight for your brothers and just carry on, keep on going."

After some late drama on the final day of group stage play in this year's DA Playoffs, an equalizer at the death to draw FC Dallas secured New York's passage to the knockout round as Group E winners. In the quarterfinals, two first half goals boosted NYC past perennial Pacific Northwest power Crossfire Premier. All three of the U-17 MNT teammates excelled in the game; Reyna provided a spark in the middle, while Jasson and Scally created danger on the wings.

To play together for New York City and the National Team fosters a reciprocal relationship. The day-to-day grind at their home club breeds familiarity when the players receive a call into U.S. camp, while the experience with the U-17s helps raise the level back in the Empire State.

"We're always together," Reyna said. "We know what each other's strengths are and what our weaknesses are, so we can play off of those and it helps a lot to win games with the National Team. A lot of those games are just like the Playoffs, very difficult and hard-fought battles. Knowing each other as best as possible is very, very helpful."

They're also not NYC's only Youth National Team pool players. James Sands stood as a stalwart on the back line for the 2017 iteration of the U-17 MNT at its World Cup in India, while his twin brother Will also figured heavily in the cycle. Nico Benalcazar has also received U-18 MNT call-ups this year.

"It helps a lot because, not only us, but there's a lot of other NT players," Jasson said. "We can train with them every day and kind of improve and see what they do and bring that to our game and then all together, just grow."

Jasson, Scally and Reyna's togetherness sets them apart. They've come up through the youth ranks together, and those years of closeness translates to understanding and success on the field.

"I've been playing against these guys, since I was probably eight," Reyna said. "The chemistry, training with each other day-in and day-out. We know each other really well, it'll help us with the National Team and back here. It's chemistry and we know what we need to do to grind out for each other and grind out for the team."

While the Concacaf U-17 Championship won't kick off until spring 2019, the U-17 cycle will kick into high gear this fall with events like the Nike International Friendlies. The Academy Playoffs have provided an invaluable experience for the U-17 prospects to draw upon. Not only have they had to face the nation's best, some of those players are three years older.

"Here, playing U-18/19, it's a lot more physical than if we were to play against our age group," Jasson said. "That definitely helps. When you play international, the teams are always bigger, stronger and this kind of prepares us for that."

The trio of U-17 teammates has embraced the challenge. After dynamic showings in Oceanside to propel NYCFC to the final four, the Blues took down Crew SC Academy in a hard-fought battle. Now, they'll face LA Galaxy for the national championship.

"Experiences like this kind of give you a perspective," Jasson said. "How to come out with results, how to win and push for a good result."