All eyes will once again be on the next generation of American standouts as the US Academy playoffs are upon us. FC Dallas’ U16s and U18s will both be looking at repeating as academy champions. Both teams looked primed to make a pretty big statement again this year.
I got with Ben Lyon, who helped cover last year’s championships for the club, to ask him about this competition and what to keep an eye on.
Let’s start with something easy. So much can change from year to year, especially with development. Are the U16 and U18 teams any good this year?
Yeah, I’d say so. The U16s enter the US Developmental Academy Championships as the number one seed. Some of the U15s who played up a year and won the U16 group at Dallas Cup make up the team while the older guys played in the Generation Adidas tournament in Frisco. They didn’t fare as well, but they did beat Real Madrid’s academy at the tournament.
As for the U18s, well they became only the second American team to win the Gordon Jago Super Group at Dallas Cup, and they have no fewer than five players (Jesus Ferreira, Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal, Carlos Alvilez, and Bryan Reynolds) already signed to professional contracts.
Out of the two teams, which one has the best possible chance of repeating this year and why?
That’s tough. The U18s have a level of talent that borders on unfair, but they’ve rotated a lot of players in and out over the course of the year with international team duty as well as pro training for guys like Ferreira, Cannon, and Pomykal. That should give the U16s an edge in chemistry that will help them through a cutthroat group stage where only one team advances.
During the Dallas Cup, the U16 and U18 squads were basically playing up in age. Is that the case again in the Academy Playoffs?
For the most part, they’re playing in their own age group for the U18s although Reynolds and Ferreira are certainly exceptions as they’d still be U16 eligible. I haven’t heard of anyone moving up from or to the U16s this tournament, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone who has. Reynolds moved up from the U14s last spring to the U16s and signed a pro contract about six months later.
Who are some players that we should keep an eye out for? Is there another HGP on these squads right now?
There are almost assuredly more than a couple HGPs on these teams at the moment. Guys like Brandon Terwege (UCLA) and Brandon Servania (Wake Forest) seem likely to end up with the club when they’re done with college, while a guy like Arturo Rodriguez, who just joined the academy from Nimitz High in the fall could go straight to the pros. If the name isn’t familiar, flash back to game winner in Dallas Cup. Yeah, that guy.
I haven’t seen much of the U16s this year, but Brayan Padilla draws the raves as the next pro-ready forward to come from the Academy. He’s the U16s leading scorer and is a cold-blooded finisher as seen here:
If these teams don’t win the Championship this year, will it be considered a disappointment?
Coaches Luchi and Molino might be, but the way this tournament is set up, you could easily get bounced from a group or the tournament with just a little bad luck (see the Generation Adidas tournament). The goal of the Academy is to develop professional ready players steeped in the FC Dallas way of doing business. More trophies would be great, but failure to win a championship/championships at this tournament shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment given the Academy’s track record over the last year.
Thanks for Ben for sharing his knowledge. As always, it was a pleasure. The Academy playoffs continue through the weekend into early next week. I would highly recommend streaming a couple of FCD matches if you are able to. The kids are really good and a lot of fun to watch. Who knows, maybe we will be seeing the next Kellyn Acosta.