I've said it before and I'll say it again. As Orlando City Soccer fans, we're a bloody spoiled lot. From 2011 to 2014 we took it as a given that we were a playoff team and that we would more than likely win the USL Pro Commissioner's Cup (like the MLS Supporter's Shield, awarded to the club accumulating the most regular season points). That's why the transition to MLS and the struggles of the club (2-3-5) to find the same success at this level can be distressing to some fans. The season-ending injury suffered by Kevin Molino a few weeks ago, as well as the hamstring injuries that have both Pedro Ribeiro and Aurelien Collin sidelined for a time have led to more hand-wringing and concern among fans.
Every season is important, of course, just like every match is important, but sometimes taking the long view can be good to help fans put the current situation of the club into perspective. Today we're going to look at some of the news that has come out of Orlando City's Youth Soccer program and academy since the start of the MLS season. Nobody can predict the future with absolute certainty, but I think the news is cause for an optimistic view of the club's future.
April 5 - Pro Academy U12s win IberCup USA Championship
In early April the Orlando City U12 Pro Academy team won the IberCup USA Championship over the team from Atletico Madrid's U12 Academy squad. On the same weekend the Pro Academy's U10 squad also reached the championship match, falling to the Dallas Texans Dynamo Pro Academy squad. Both of the youth teams faced rigorous playoff challenges, as youth clubs from all over Europe and the Americas competed in the five-day tournament, held April 1 - April 5 in Sarasota and Bradenton. Orlando City sent four Pro Academy youth teams to this year's competition, and to come away with one championship and two teams in the final match for their age group is a great accomplishment.
You can read more about the tournament and the success of the teams on the Orlando City Youth News page.
April 16 - Orlando City Youth Defender Called up to U14 US Boy's National Team
On April 16, US Boy's National Team Coach Brian Johnson called on 36 players from around the country to participate in a camp in Carson, California. Among those called up were Orlando City Youth Academy defender D'Anthony Brown. Read more about the call-ups and the camp that was held in late April on the US Soccer web site.
May 9 - Orlando City U13 Pro Academy Team Wins Florida Premier League
With an impressive 9 - nil drubbing of Space Coast United, the Orlando City U13 Boys Pro Academy team won the Florida Premier League championship in their age classification. The U14 Girls Pro Academy team also won a tight 2 - 1 contest over Boca United to win their championship.
The National Premier League finals will take July 9 - 13 at Grand Park in Westfield, IN. Our lads and ladies will represent the Sunshine State in the competition in their age classifications. You can read more about the National Premier League and the finals on their web site.
So purple-clad fans of Orlando City can see we have lots to cheer about for years to come. Nobody should think for an instant that the struggle to compete the first year out in MLS means that Orlando City's ownership and leadership group have taken their foot off the gas just because they've reached the top league in American Soccer. On the contrary, the results this spring that our youth Pro Academy teams and players have achieved is proof that this club is built for long-term success across all levels of soccer.