U-13 Age Group Kicks Off Regional Showcase

Twenty-Eight Teams Play Two Intra-Divisional Shortened Games on First Day of Central Conference Regional Showcase

Westfield, Ind. (Oct. 14, 2016) - From Michigan to Texas, and Colorado to Illinois, twenty-eight Under-13 teams from eight states kicked off the first-ever Development Academy Regional Showcase for the newly split U-13 and U-14 age groups on Friday afternoon at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana. Representing the three divisions of the Central Conference, each team played two 50-minute games against teams from outside their division in the first event of the 2016-2017 season. This year marks the 10th year since the Development Academy Program was launched.

WHO'S HERE: The Central Conference consists of seven teams in the Colorado Division, 10 teams in the Mid-Atlantic, and seven teams in the Frontier Division. Teams play within their division during the 10-month season that began in September. For most teams, the Showcase is their first chance to compete against teams outside their division, providing teams an opportunity to play against different playing styles and to measure themselves against other clubs and individuals.

"I didn't know what to expect of them, they were unique teams," said attacking center midfielder Joseph Camaj for Vardar SC, which played Real Colorado and the Colorado Rapids on Friday. "They're a little bit different from teams we've played against before - both teams were pretty aggressive, and they play quickly. But I think we played pretty good."

NEW BEGINNINGS: With this being the first year for the U-13 division as a stand-alone age group, the showcase is the first of many new experiences. For a number of teams, the Showcase is the first time many of their players have traveled out of state for a competition. And while some teams had a core of players who may have played together in previous years, many have introduced new talent as they entered the U-13 Development Academy program. Another new twist for many of the players is that results and standings are not kept at this level, allowing the teams to learn how to compete and manage games through meaningful competition in a positive learning environment.

"For our boys, it's really important that they want to be the best, and they want to train with the best, and they want to be better than the teams we're playing against," said St. Louis Gallagher Missouri coach Tim Lees. "But for us, first and foremost is the way that we develop the players. I've never coached a kid who has gone on the field and not wanted to win, but for us it's about making sure that they understand the process and we try to look at the long-term picture. Once we get the philosophy and the style, we can then look into results.

NEW PERSPECTIVE: Teams from Colorado and Houston had the opportunity to travel to the Midwest and experience soccer in the Indianapolis suburb of Westfield. Likewise, Midwest teams had a chance to see unique styles from teams from Texas and Colorado. And on the local side, Indiana Fire welcomed new competition from all over the conference to their home complex of Grand Park. The beauty of these Showcases is that is brings together talent from across the country.

The distances between opponents on the first day of the Showcase varied greatly. Michigan-based Vardar Soccer Club squared off against Real Colorado and the Colorado Rapids; Cleveland, Ohio-based Internationals faced Colorado Rush and Dallas Texans; Michigan's Crew SC Wolves played Houston's Texas Rush and Austin's Lonestar SC; and FC Dallas closed out their day against Toronto FC.

THEY MEET AGAIN: This first of the three Showcases brings together seven U-13 teams from Major League Soccer clubs: Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Sporting KC and Toronto FC. On the first day, Crew SC and the Houston Dynamo squared off, as did Colorado Rapids and Chicago Fire, while Toronto FC played Sporting KC and FC Dallas.