ESPN RISE's Chris Ackels previews the Elite Clubs National League championships this weekend in Aurora, Colo., today on RISE's soccer section, and among some of the contenders looking to make a splash are two Massachusetts clubs, FC Stars and Scorpions SC.
The two clubs are the only Bay State teams in the 52-member league, but draw a significant amount of respect on the national level. Each of the top eight teams in the "Challenge A" division will compete in a single-elimination bracket to determine the champion, and there is praise thrown around for some of the locals.
In the U18 division, the No. 2 seed stars face a good first-round matchup in No. 7 seed Kansas City Football Club:
FC Stars of Mass beat fifth-seeded Bethesda SC to claim the US Youth Soccer Region I Championship two weeks ago. During the ECNL regular season FC Stars beat third-seeded Eclipse Select and Flight B leader Carmel United. The Stars this age group’s most tested squad. KCFC is second in scoring, netting 24 goals in nine ECNL matches. KCFC will need major offensive production from scoring-leader Shea Groom to compete with Stars of Mass.
In the U17 division, FC Stars have drawn a No. 3 seed against California power Mustang SC, in what some are predicting to be a high-octane battle:
The two highest scoring teams in the ECNL go head-to-head in this first round matchup. Both squads netted 30 goals this year in ECNL play. For FC Stars of Mass, keep a close eye on Hayley Dowd –- she scored all three goals in a victory over West Coast FC at the PDA Showcase. Briana Gaines is a threat for Mustang, scoring twice in a crucial win over Ohio Elite at the showcase.
In the U16 division, the Scorpions drew a No. 5 seed and will face Atlanta club Concorde Fire:
This will be a fun one to watch. These teams met once before – Concorde Fire beat Scorpions, 3-2, in December. But the Scorpions have talent of their own: they’re the only team to beat Eclipse, doing so at the PDA Showcase, and they won their second straight US Youth Soccer Region I title behind the scoring of Andrea O’Brien. Watch for a close match among two possible title contenders.