The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-13s stepped into the international spotlight last week, playing in North America's most prestigious club competition.
Led by head coach Matt Trump, Sporting Kansas City was one of 16 teams challenging for the Scotiabank CONCACAF U-13 Champions League, which kicked off July 23 and culminated Saturday with the championship and third place matches. The U-13s made the most of their inaugural appearance on the international stage, claiming fourth place at the Universidad Intercontinental in Mexico City.
Despite stumbling out of the gates with a 2-0 loss to CD Santa Ana of El Salvador, Sporting KC responded with a pair of 2-0 victories to seal a quarterfinal spot as a second-place finisher in Group C. The first win against Mexican club Pungarabato Guerrero saw goalkeeper Tommy Williams notch his first of three consecutive shutouts, making a series of fantastic saves to keep the opponent at bey. Early goals from Osvaldo Cisneros and Coby Jones ensured the result and gave Sporting KC momentum heading into the all-important group-stage finale against FC Chorillo of Panama. Tyler Freeman bagged two set piece goals -- a penalty kick and a stunning free kick on the stroke of full time -- to give his team the requisite win to progress to the knockout rounds.
Williams maintained his excellent form between the posts in Sporting KC's 1-0 quarterfinal defeat of Costa Rican side CS Herediano. Freeman scored the lone goal of the match from the penalty spot to ensure the U-13s would finish no lower than fourth in an ultra-competitive 16-team field.
Sporting KC and Comunicaciones FC squared off last Saturday in the tournament semifinals, playing to a scoreless stalemate through halftime. Five late goals from the Guatemalan outfit snapped the U-13s' three-game winning streak and dropped the club into Saturday's third-place match, where they fell 1-0 to Alajualense of Costa Rica.
Sporting KC's fourth-place finish in a major international competition is a testament to the Sporting Club Network's collective development of young talent throughout the region. Among the 18 players on the tournament roster, 10 previously played for a Sporting Kansas City Academy Affiliate.