Utah well represented at youth soccer national championship

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FRISCO, Texas — The 2017 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series games are this week in Frisco, Texas, and Utah will be well represented with four local soccer teams competing.

Three girls teams — the Celtic FC under 17, Celtic FC under 16 and the La Roca FC under 15 — are all headed to Texas to vie for the national championship in their respective age groups. Utah boys soccer will be represented by the Sparta under 17 team.

“There are only 96 team slots available,” said Steve Nelson of U.S. Youth Soccer. “The tournament itself starts out with over 10,000 teams playing in State Cups all over the country with over 185,000 players, and it starts at their State Cups in their individual states and then it goes on from there to their regional championships and then here at the national championships … so to have four teams from one state in the tournament, it is very good.”

Teams from Utah have been to nationals before, but this is the first time in recent years that Utah has sent four teams.

The three girls teams first won the Utah State Cup then headed to Seattle in June to compete in the Region IV tournament where they competed with 12 other western states and their top soccer teams. In Seattle, the three teams from Utah won the region tournament and earned their spot to be among eight teams from their age group to compete for the national title.

The Sparta boys team qualified for Nationals by winning the national league.

“The training and the time and effort that goes into making it to the national championships (is crazy)," Nelson said. "The way they practice, the way they train, the way that teams really dedicate the majority of their time to winning this tournament is amazing. ... This is a full-time effort. The teams are incredibly skilled and talented to make it this far. It is a difficult tournament.”

The team rosters are filled with athletes committed to playing college soccer and are led by coaches with collegiate and international experience. The La Roca under 15 girls team is led by ‘Pancho’ Ovalle who played professionally in Chile and has coached many teams that have won state and regional championships.

The Celtic soccer club, based out of Utah Valley, will be represented in Texas by the under 16 and under 17 girls teams. The under 16 team earned its way into nationals by winning the region championship game in penalty kicks. The under 17 Celtic team outscored teams, 25-5, in the regional tournament. It is led by former pro-player Steve Magleby and has a host of future college players on the roster, with 10 girls verbally committed to continue their soccer careers.

The boys Sparta team also holds an impressive résumé, as this is its second year in a row making it to nationals, and it has won four state championships since 2012.

Games begin on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas, and continue until the championship games on Sunday. For more information and to watch livestreams of the games, go to championships.usyouthsoccer.org.

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