More than 200 teams from across the country head to Zarephath, N.J., this weekend for the annual PDA Showcase, one of the nation’s most esteemed club soccer events. In recent years, the Showcase has taken on new meaning, serving as the final stop for many ECNL teams before June’s playoffs. Forty-four ECNL clubs will send a total of 110 teams to this year’s PDA Showcase and the results will have major implications on which teams makes the playoffs in their respective age groups.
ESPNHS breaks down the teams to watch, the players to watch, and the matches to watch at U17 this weekend in New Jersey.
Three Teams to Watch
San Diego Surf: Surf enters the weekend holding the No. 11 spot in the ECNL standings. Three wins would certainly put them in the playoffs, even two wins would help their case. Their biggest games of the weekend come against Concorde Fire and Scorpions, both of whom hold spots in the standing just above Surf. Wins in those two matches would all but guarantee playoff seeding for the California squad, while losses could likely lock them out of contention.
Real So Cal: Surf’s Southern California neighbors are in almost the exact same situation. In fact, Real So Cal is tied with the San Diego club for No. 11 in the standings, and it too takes on a pair of top level opponents. First, Real So Cal goes head-to-head with Eclipse Select, the age group’s No. 1 overall team. Then, on Sunday, Real So Cal takes on Ohio Premier, who is also fighting for a playoff spot. The outcome of that game could go a long way in deciding who gets to play for the title in June.
Mustang: The team that sits at No. 2 in the standings is ranked No. 9 in this week’s ESPNHS ECNL Under-17 Power Rankings. Despite their strong record, Mustang hasn’t faced the toughest slate of opponents -- yet. This weekend will go a long way for Mustang to prove their mettle as they take on three other top-rated teams. On Saturday Mustang takes on No. 5 Dallas Sting, on Sunday it faces No. 6 Scorpions and Monday the team faces a strong Concorde Fire squad. This weekend provides a chance for Mustang to legitimize their national standing and move way up in the ESPNHS power rankings.
Three Players to Watch
Sophie Groff (Dallas Texans): The forward has 15 goals in 17 games this season and is especially dangerous when working with fellow forward Jasmine Hart (14 goals in as many games).
Savannah Jordan (Concorde Fire): The stats say it all: 21 goals in 21 games. Jordan will need to be big for Concorde Fire this weekend as they have a tough slate of games against San Diego Surf, Dallas Texans and Mustang.
Anna Rosa James (Ohio Premier): In 13 Flight A games this year, James has given up just six goals in net for Ohio Premier. That kind of stellar goalkeeper could help the Eagles play into a playoff position. The team holds No. 9 in the standings coming in.
Three Matches to Watch
Scorpions vs. Colorado Rush (Saturday at 1:30 p.m.): This one’s pretty simple. Scorpions occupies the No. 8 spot. Colorado Rush wants in. They hold No. 13 coming in, but with easy games Sunday and Monday, a win over Scorpions could go a long way to get the girls from Colorado into the top eight. To do that, they’ll have to find a way to neutralize the intimidating Meehan twins, who are together responsible for 45 goals this season.
Slammers vs. FC Virginia (Sunday at 5:30 p.m.): FC Virginia needs a strong weekend to get into next month’s playoffs and its toughest game will be Sunday against Slammers. This game will also have power rankings implications as Virginia currently sits at No. 10 with Slammers knocking on the door. These are two teams with diverse offensive attacks and similarly strong defenses, which always makes for a fun matchup.
Dallas Sting vs. Mustang (Saturday at 1:30 p.m.): Both teams have something to prove and something to play for. Sting is trying to secure a high seed in the playoffs, and Mustang is their toughest opponent this weekend. Caitlyn Heap has only played in about half of Sting’s games, but when she’s on the pitch she’s effective for the Dallas squad. Mustang may be in for a bit of a wakeup call playing their toughest opponent, by far, of the season.