This past week, the Sporting Kansas City Academy competed in the second-ever MLS NEXT Fest at Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, Calif. Over 400 of the top youth teams across the United States and Canada competed in MLS NEXT Fest, including five Sporting KC Academy sides.
Sporting KC's U-13, U-14, U-15, U-17 and U-19 teams showed off their skills in three matches in front of U.S. Soccer’s Director of Talent Identification, Tony Lepore, and his staff as well as a large number of college programs and professional clubs. The players at MLS NEXT Fest were also treated to an enhanced player experience off the field at the adidas athlete HQ, which included Teqball and a World Cup viewing zone. Additionally, the HQ allowed competitors to utilize technology-enabled soccer experiences from TOCA Football and Rezzil, specifically designed to enhance player development.
Sporting KC's U-19s kicked the weekend off in style with an opening match victory over Vardar. Dalton Visconti bagged an early goal for Sporting's U-19s in the 10th minute before Jacob Bartlett fired home on the cusp of halftime to double the lead. The Sporting KC backline held as they closed out the day with a 2-0 win. The following day, the U-19s handled business against Southern Soccer Academy, taking home a 2-1 win with a 59th-minute goal from Kaile Auvray and a 64th-minute strike off an assist from Visconti. Southern Soccer Academy pulled one back in the 78th minute but Sporting was able to hold on. The final match produced a 1-1 draw against Springfield SYC with Thomas Mancuso erasing a one-goal deficit in the 50th minute to secure an undefeated weekend for Sporting's U-19 squad.
The U-17s began their MLS NEXT Fest with a 1-0 stoppage time defeat to the Philadelphia Union on Dec. 2 followed up by a defeat to Atlanta United by way of a 3-2 scoreline. Atlanta's three-goal lead was nearly erased after Trajan Wormington and Naim Robinson each scored one apiece, but the equalizer never arrived. The U-17s put a bow on the week with a 1-0 triumph over NYCFC with Robinson finding the back of the net for his second strike of the showcase.
The U-15s had an exciting start to their showcase, winning their first two matches in penalty kick shootouts. In the opener against CF Montreal, Cristiano Delgado struck in the sixth minute before Montreal leveled 21 minutes later. An own goal for the Canadian side had Sporting out in front but a 68th-minute goal brought the match even at 2-2. Montreal saw their final penalty kick saved giving Sporting a 4-3 win in the shootout.
The second match followed a similar script as a 2-2 draw was followed by a Sporting shootout win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Vancouver jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Jaxson Kalinka and Ian James both scored in quick succession early in the second half to even the score. The U-15s outlasted the Whitecaps 5-4 in the shootout for their second win of the competition. In their third and final match, the Columbus Crew snatched an early lead over Sporting and remained in control for the entire match, winning 3-0.
Sporting's U-14s came out firing in the first match, firing home five goals. Colin Lysinger and Jesus Enriquez each scored once while Eman Alcic tallied a second-half hat trick, allowing Sporting to cruise to a 5-1 win. Day two saw the U-14s slip to a 2-0 loss against RSL Arizona and day three produced a 1-1 draw against Santa Barbra SC. Armando Infante scored his lone goal of the competition to open the scoring but a second-half goal from Santa Barbra left the match deadlocked.
Sporting's U-13s suffered a 2-1 defeat to Chicago Fire FC and a 1-0 loss against Total Futbol Academy in their first two matches. On the final day, RSL Arizona bested the U-13s with a 3-0 win. The Sporting Kansas City Academy's 2022-23 MLS NEXT season will resume in February with four major events still remaining on the schedule including the 2023 Generation adidas Cup in April, MLS NEXT Flex in May, the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and MLS NEXT Cup Showcase in June and the MLS NEXT All-Star Game on July 18. Fans can follow along with all the major happenings at the academy by following @SKCAcademy on Twitter.
About Major League Soccer
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer – celebrating its 27th season in 2022 – features 29 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, including 2022 expansion team Charlotte FC and St. Louis City SC, which debuts in 2023. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com.
About MLS NEXT
MLS NEXT is a new paradigm for player development, launched in 2020 to transform youth soccer in North America. Founded on a collaborative approach to governance and a commitment to innovation, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest level of competition, training and personal development opportunities that will prepare them for their futures, both in soccer and in life. Membership for the 2022-23 season includes 137 clubs, 628 teams and over 13,000 players across the U.S. and Canada. Official partners of MLS NEXT include adidas, Allstate, DoorDash, and the University of South Carolina. For more information about MLS NEXT, visit www.mlssoccer.com/mlsnext.