San Diego’s SoCal United U12 boys have had quite a run this past year, dominating the 2013 regionals and nationals of the Volkswagen Junior Masters World Tournament and playing spectacularly this month in Rome, Italy where they competed in the World Finals.
The SoCal team consists of top-notch players from five different California youth soccer clubs: San Diego Soccer Club (SDSC), Carlsbad Lighting, Nomads, Celtic, Total Football Academy (formerly Barcelona) and Danville Mustangs.
Led by coaches Jim Flowers and Jay Amin, the hard work they put in during 2013 tournament competition was rewarded with the opportunity to play on an international stage in one of the largest youth football tournaments in the world. Only boys aged 10 to 12 years are eligible and the tournament runs every two years, with the next World Final to be held in Paris, France in 2016.
“Last year they won the Regional in San Francisco,” Flowers explained. “That got them into the National Championships in Kansas City in July 2013 and then they won in penalty kicks. That got them into the World Championships in Rome.”
SoCal’s performance in Rome was unparalleled. Each team played in five 20-minute matches and the boys prevailed against their international opponents every time.
The first game saw them defeating Switzerland 2-0 with goals from Angel Flores and Andrew Miranda. Next, Cameron Williams and Noah Suemnick scored to shut out the United Arab Emirates. In the third game of group play Kazakhstan defeated SoCal 1-0, but in a twist of fate was disqualified for utilizing players older than the required age regulation. The boys finished up with a nice 2-0 win against Spain with goals from Angel Flores and Andrew Miranda and tied Australia 0-0.
When they took on Turkey in the quarterfinals, both teams battled to a thrilling 0-0 finish in regulation, but the opposition ousted SoCal in penalty kicks 2-1.
Although they didn’t end up overall champions, the boys had defeated the winner- Switzerland in group play- and one of their own, Cameron Williams was chosen as best player of the tournament.
The trip in itself was a dream come true for the players as they took in the rich Italian culture, incurred vital soccer experience and forged unforgettable friendships with players from other teams.
“It really is an experience of a lifetime. The way they treat the kids is the part they’ll never forget, not to mention the camaraderie with kids from other countries- it’s stuff like that they’ll never forget and the experience is hard to match,” said Flowers.