MESA, Ariz. (Nov. 13, 2023) — Four exciting days of action at the Elite 64 Playoffs in Mesa, Ariz., saw 45 boys teams qualify for National League P.R.O., while six sides claimed Playoff titles as the winners of the champions pool in their age group.
Elite 64 is the top club-based platform in the USYS National League. The Nov. 10-13 action took place at Legacy Sports Park and featured more than 110 boys teams across the 13U-19U age groups.
For the 14U-19U age groups, the Playoffs represent the first of two stages of National League events, which provide every competing team with an opportunity to ultimately advance to the USYS National Championships. The 45 teams that earned advancement to the next stage — National League P.R.O. — will play May 4-7 in Oceanside, Calif., for a chance to qualify for the USYS National Championships.
“It feels good because we had some pressure with everyone coming for us after we won last year,” Los Angeles Soccer Club 09B winger Jase Dunbar said. “It feels good to come here and win again and keep our title going.
“We’re looking forward to going to National League P.R.O. as a team, and we’re ready for the challenge to try to win again. We’re willing to put in all the work for when we meet some of the top teams there, and we’re ready to take it home again.”
Of note, CCV Stars advanced four teams to National League P.R.O., despite playing as a first-year club with no teams in the champions pool at the Playoffs.
In addition to earning a place in National League P.R.O., six teams also won tournament competition within the champions pool of their respective age groups to claim Elite 64 Playoff titles. The boys’ weekend was highlighted by an outstanding overall club performance by Laguna United, which came away with four team titles.
2023 Elite 64 Playoffs (Arizona) | Boys Champions
*13U: Laguna United 11 Elite 64
14U: Laguna United 10 Elite 64
15U: Los Angeles Soccer Club 09B Elite 64
16U: Strikers FC North B08 Elite 64
17U: Laguna United 07 Elite 64
19U: Laguna United 05/06 Elite 64
*The 13U age group does not advance teams to National League P.R.O.
“It was amazing,” Los Angeles Soccer Club 09B midfielder Jason Garcia said after his team’s Playoff championship win. “The chances that we’ve got and the environment that we were in. It was so much different than when we play in California. It was an amazing experience here and a great opportunity.”
TITLE GAME RECAPS…
A flurry of late goals helped Laguna United 11 Elite 64 pull away for a 4-1 win against CDA Slammers 11B Elite 64 to claim the 13U title. Armando Pacheco opened the scoring in the 17th minute to put Laguna in front, but Jason Anderson Jr. equalized for CDA shortly after halftime. Laguna retook the lead in the 55th minute through a Matthew Yang goal, and Karim Kurd doubled the lead with a goal six minutes later. Jack Richtman capped the victory with a free kick rocket that hit off the underside of the crossbar before crossing the goal line — giving Laguna the 4-1 win.
A third straight clean sheet for Laguna United 10 Elite 64 helped it capture the 14U title. Facing Strikers FC North B10 Elite 64 in the championship game, Laguna jumped in front in the 27th minute when Jackson Kaufman found the back of the net. Arul Kulkarni added an insurance goal in the 67th minute to help Laguna to a 2-0 victory to give in the Playoff title.
Los Angeles Soccer Club 09B Elite 64 defeated Utah Soccer Alliance 09B Elite 64, 2-0, to win the 15U title. The California side took a 20th-minute lead when Michael Fernandez jumped on a loose ball and fired in the opening goal. USA goalkeeper Zachary Pulsipher kept his team in striking distance by making several saves throughout the game, but Angel Jasso hit a right-footed blast from outside the box in the 69th minute that found the back of the net to give LASC a two-goal advantage. LASC held on for its second shutout of the Playoffs to secure the 2-0 victory.
Strikers FC North B08 Elite 64 overcame a second-half deficit to earn a 3-1 win against EP Locomotive FC 08B Elite 64 in the 16U title game. El Paso’s Angel Flores scored in the 42nd minute to put Locomotive in front. That lead lasted 20 minutes before Cade Lussier equalized for Strikers FC. Omar Sepulveda netted a go-ahead goal for Strikers FC in the 72nd minute, and Lussier added his second of the game to give the California side an insurance goal in the 3-1 victory.
A thrilling 17U title game saw Laguna United 07 Elite 64 defeat Sparta United 07B Elite 64, 2-2 (5-3 PK), to win the Playoff championship. Laguna took the lead in the 28th minute when Takudzwa Kajese powered a header into the back of the net. Joshua Glazier used a tidy finish in the 50th minute to pull Sparta level, but Kajese completed a brace to help Laguna regain the lead in the 66th minute. After Laguna went down to 10 men, Sparta immediately equalized through a Holden Jones goal — leading the teams to a penalty kick shootout. Laguna converted all of its kicks to win the shootout and claim the title.
Laguna United 05/06 Elite 64 knocked off Sparta United 05/06B Elite 64, 3-1, to win the 19U title. The California side went in front in the third minute, but Sparta replied in the 20th minute to send the game to halftime tied at 1-1. Tyler Queen scored in the 58th minute with what proved to be the winning goal. Laguna added an insurance goal minutes later and held on for the 3-1 victory. The win marked a reversal of last season’s E64 National Finals title game, when Sparta beat Laguna, 3-1.
The Elite 64 teams that did not compete in the Playoffs in Arizona will play Jan. 26-30 at the Elite 64 Playoffs in Florida. Teams that advance from that event will move on to a National League P.R.O. event in February.