ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 30, 2024) — Five exciting days of action at the Elite 64 Playoffs in Orlando, Fla., 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 Jan. 26-30 action took place at Austin Tindall Sports Complex, ChampionsGate Sports Complex and Heroes Park and featured more than 190 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 Feb. 23-26 in Tampa, Fla., for a chance to qualify to the National Championships.
“The nice thing about Elite 64 is that every game matters,” said Club Ohio 10B Elite 64 coach Adam Jones after his team secured a spot in National League P.R.O. by winning the 14U Boys wildcard pool. “We’ve been a part of USYS for a really long time. We’re familiar with the format, whether it’s E64 or National League, the competition is always great. It pushes the boys to the best the best they can be.
“We have really good teams in our region, but to be able to play teams on a national level that push us — that’s something we’re always seeking.”
In addition to teams earning their 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.
2024 Elite 64 Playoffs (Florida) | Boys Champions
*13U: Toca FC 10B Elite 64 (KS)
14U: Toca FC 10B Elite 64 (KS)
15U: Galaxy SC 09B Elite 64 (IL)
16U: PDA Hibernian 08B Elite 64 (NJ)
17U: Toca FC 07B Elite 64 (KS)
19U: Oregon Premier 05/06B Elite 64 (OR)
*The 13U age group does not advance teams to National League P.R.O.
Toca led all boys clubs by claiming three of the champions pool titles, while it also had another finalist and qualified all five possible teams for National League P.R.O. Toca FC Director of Coaching Jon Collett talked about the value the playoffs’ environment provided for their teams.
“It’s huge, especially for the older players,” Collett said. “You’re looking for the competition, but there’s also comradery. When they’re playing back-to-back and there’s a few games that went to PKs, the other teams were watching them and they ran off and celebrated together, which is great for the club.
“Competition-wise, it’s been good. All the teams from 2010s through 2005s have qualified for Tampa. It’s great for the club. It’s good exposure and good to play in the next round of competition in February.”
TITLE GAME RECAPS…
A pair of late goals helped Toca FC 10B Elite 64 (KS) pull away for a win against Galaxy SC 11B Elite 64 (IL) in a Midwest showdown to claim the 13U title. Galaxy took an early lead in the 12th minute through an Ethan Padilla goal. A Jaykel Bermudez reply came two minutes later off a rocket shot in the upper-90 to equalize. Bermudez capitalized on a 1-v-1 with the keeper to put Toca up 2-1 just before the half. The Kansas side struck again in the 57th minute through a breakaway by Tristan Zimmermann. Luke Arnett netted the last goal just before the final whistle, giving Toca the 4-1 win.
A tightly contested final saw Toca FC 10B Elite 64 (KS) come out victorious over Galaxy SC 10B Elite 64 (IL) in the 14U playoff final. With play going from end to end through the first half, the Illinois side was able to convert in the 41st minute with a goal by Nicolas Mason. Toca’s Easton Vacanti quickly replied in the 46th minute when he netted a goal of his own. The Kansas side’s Reid Williams added an insurance goal 20 minutes later to close out the game for a 2-1 Toca win.
A goal on either side of halftime helped Galaxy SC 09B Elite 64 (IL) to a 2-0 win over United FA 09B Elite 64 (GA) in the 15U title game. Logan Godfrey gave Galaxy an early lead with a goal in the sixth minute, and the Illinois side maintained that narrow advantage for the next 45 minutes of play. Mark Ndrio added an insurance goal in the 51st minute, and Galaxy held on the rest of the way to earn the 2-0 win.
The 16U Boys playoff final provided plenty of drama, as Toca FC 08B Elite 64 (KS) and PDA Hibernian 08B Elite 64 (NJ) needed penalty kicks to decide the winner. After a scoreless regulation, PDA goalkeeper Anthony Merluse fully extended to tip a Toca penalty attempt off the bar — providing a save that kept his side alive and extended the shootout. PDA’s Nicholas Angiolino later stepped up and slotted his attempt into the left side-netting to clinch the win and title for the New Jersey side.
Toca FC 07B Elite 64 (KS) won a thriller, 2-1 (PK), against Libertyville FC 1974-07B Elite 64 (IL) to win the 17U Boys playoff title. Neither side managed to break through until the 83rd minute, when FC 1974’s Ivan Sereno found the back of the net to put his side up, 1-0. Toca replied just two minutes later to tie the game, as Sergio Hernandez placed a shot inside the far post. The game went to penalties to decide the winner, and Toca won the shootout to secure the title.
After falling behind early in the championship game, Oregon Premier 05/06B Elite 64 (OR) fought back to secure a 4-1 win over United FA 06/05B Elite 64 (GA) to win the 19U playoff title. Carter Weems put United FA in front in the ninth minute, but a 21st-minute own goal helped Oregon level the score. Henry Catlin found the back of the net in the 53rd minute to give Oregon its first lead, and Jaden Igarta extended the advantage to 3-1 with a 75th-minute strike. Kian Mueller powered in a fourth goal for Oregon in the final minutes to cap the title-winning victory.