The outdoor soccer season might be over for most Wisconsin teams, but five state sides are headed to Rocky Mount, N.C., over the next two weeks to open the 2016-17 season of the U.S. Youth Soccer National League.
The North Shore United Blue 17U team and the SC Waukesha Blue 18U team start the girls competition with four matches Thursday through Sunday. Boys play kicks off with four games from Dec. 8 to 11, and will feature the SC Waukesha Blue 15U side and the Elm Grove SC and Milwaukee Bavarians 18U teams.
The North Shore 17U girls are in the Red Division along with Indiana's FC Pride Elite and Dallas Kicks SC – FC Pride has advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships each of the past two years, while the Kicks have qualified for nationals three consecutive seasons.
Meanwhile, the SC Waukesha's 18U team, which includes at least 10 players who have verbally committed to NCAA Division I programs, is in the Blue Division with reigning national champion L.A. Galaxy San Diego Elite from California.
In the boys competition, SC Waukesha Blue 15U side is in the Red Division, which includes defending national champion Capital Area Soccer League Red from North Carolina. Elm Grove's 18U Black Division features two regional champions from 2016 in Ohio Premier Green (Region II) and California's Strikers FC North (Region IV), along with Region IV runner-up EC Real Pumas, while the Bavarians' Blue Division includes perennial national contender United Futbol Academy Premier from Georgia and reigning Blue Division champion La Roca South CS Premier from Utah.
The National League, which features boys and girls competitions from 15U through 19/20U, has expanded to 256 total teams this season. The top finishers in each of the four divisions in each age group earn spots in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships, which are scheduled for July 24 to 30 in Frisco, Texas.
The state girls teams will wrap up National League group play Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 in Kissimmee, Fla., while the Wisconsin boys sides will play their final three matches March 10 to 12 in Las Vegas.