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YPT PLAYERS RETURN FROM WORLD CLASS TOURNAMENT


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YPTusa and SL Benfica [Portugal]

‘The Mundialito’ is one of the best 7-aside youth tournaments in the world and is held in The Algarve, the southernmost region of mainland Portugal.
 
The main site for the tournament was the Vila Real de Santo António Sports Complex, in the coastal city of Vila Real de Santo Antonio. The complex boasts a 10,000 seat stadium with a perfectly manicured natural grass pitch, 4 natural and 1 synthetic grass fields next to the stadium, medical facilities, tennis courts, 3 multipurpose sports halls, and an exhibition hall connected to the stadium. The complex was designated by FIFA as an official training facility for the European Championships, which were held in Portugal in 2004 and is also an official Olympic Training center. The complex is situated just a few kilometers from the beach, the Ria Formosa Natural Park, and the Sapal de Castro Marim nature Resreve (home of the rarely seen Algarvian Gorilla.)
 
Teams from practically every continent were in attendance, many of them top professional youth academies including Club America (Mexico), SL Benfica (Portugal), AC Milan (Italy), Glasgow Rangers (Scotland), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Ajax of Amsterdam (Holland), Stuttgart (Germany), Everton (England), Sevilla (Spain), Spartak Moscow (Russia), Olympique Lyon (France),  Atletico Madrid (Spain), FC Porto (Portugal), Real Betis (Spain), Olympique  St. Entienne (France), Vasco de Gama (Brazil), and others.
 
Because of YPT’s contacts in Europe, an invitation was extended to enter a team in the 97/98 birth year category – the tournament’s oldest, and most competitive, age group.
 
The players invited to travel to Portugal, as part of YPTs European Tour Program, were some of the best 97/98 birth year players who participated in YPT’s Residence Program, which was held at the St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, DE last July. Each summer, YPT’s Residence Program flies in top trainers from some of Europe’s best youth academies to work with a small number of very good North American players. At the end of the week, the trainers are asked to rank all of players in their respective groups. The players selected to travel to Europe for the Mundialito were chosen, by the trainers, from these rankings.
 
YPT’s Mundialito 12 player roster included players from 2 countries (the United States and Canada) and 6 states including New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and Ontario.  Preparations for the tournament took place over several months in Eastern Pennsylvania.  The players were extremely committed to preparing for this international competition with most players driving at least 2 hours to training not to mention the Texas players who flew in for the training sessions.   
 
The team met on Friday night at Newark International Airport, in New Jersey, for an 8:15 flight to Lisbon. For this group of very excited 10 and 11 year old players, sleep on the overnight flight would be difficult. For most, it would be their first time stepping onto the soil of another continent.
 
The group arrived in Lisbon at 8:30am the next morning, Saturday, and boarded a coach bus for a four hour drive south to the Southern coast of Portugal. Upon arrival in Vila Real de Santo Antonio the team headed directly to the stadium to receive their player and staff credentials. These credentials, an official tournament photo ID attached to a lanyard, had to be worn at all times (except for matches, of course) and would permit access to team changing rooms and the playing fields.
 
The player’s excitement rose to an entirely new level as they toured the Stadium complex and exhibition hall. It was clear that things were gearing up for an eventful week, both on and off the pitch.
 
From the stadium the group headed to their 4-star hotel, on the beach, a few kilometers away. The rooms were more like apartments with a separate bedroom, living area, and kitchen/dining area. After settling in, although more than a little tired from so many hours awake, and time zones traveled, the team prepared for its first training session in Europe. The light session was necessary as the team would play their first two matches the next day. The session would also help acclimate the players to the playing surface, climate and time change.   
 
56 teams, divided into 8 groups of 7, made up the brackets in the 1997/1998 age group. At least two professional academy teams were placed in each bracket. YPT was grouped with Benfica of Portugal and Stuttgart of Germany. Considering that the YPT European Tour team was, for all intent and purposes, a select team and not a permanent club or academy team, they certainly had their work cut out for them as they would be competing against teams who have been together for a number of years and who train at a professional level on a consistent basis. Winning the Mundialito would certainly be an almost insurmountable challenge but one that this group of very special players would be up for.
All matches were played 7-aside: 6 field players and a goalkeeper. Each game was 50 minutes in duration:  two 25-minute halves. Substitutions were on the fly.
 
When it was all said and done, the Americans had a respectable showing at this truly world class event…one which would earn them an invitation to return for the 2010 Mundialito. In group play YPT earned a record of 2-1-3. YPT decidedly defeated 2 amateur sides from Portugal, drew against a very good academy from Venezuela in a hard fought battle, and lost to the Stuttgart Kickers, of the German Bundesliga, Fleche Negra….a reputable academy from Spain which repeatedly supplies la Liga (Spain’s First division) with top players, and SL Benfica of Portugal – eventual champions of the Mundialito.
 
Benfica is Portugal’s richest and most popular club and their youth team wasted no time in becoming the buzz of the tournament due largely in part to a sensational, and all but unstoppable, midfield trio. YPT’s match against Benfica, specifically the first half, was arguably the Americans best performance of the tournament. One which drew compliments from several professional youth trainers who saw the match. It was a performance the YPT players have every right to feel very, very good about.
 
Before meeting YPT in the Stadium, Benfica tallied an incredible 34 goals against their first 4 opponents. The Benfica coach, however, made a common, and sometimes fatal mistake….he underestimated the Americans and did not start 2 of his 3 outstanding midfielders.  Despite scoring so many goals early on in the tournament, Benfica had not yet secured a place in the quarterfinals due to a loss in their first game against an exciting Fleche Negra side. Benfica’s match against YPT was a must win. YPT had an inspired start to the game and when the halfway mark on the first half came and went and Benfica had yet to score a goal, the coach quickly called his two stud midfielders off the bench and into the game. YPT, by now with much of the momentum, continued to press, disrupt, and tackle the eventual champions and the half ended 0-0.  Benfica started the second half with renewed sense of urgency and perhaps a newfound respect for the American player.  Although YPT would eventually be defeated by the Portuguese team they walked away from experience with heads held high and perhaps even helped changed the opinion some have of the ability of the young American player.  
 
On their way to becoming champion of The Mundialito, Benfica would also defeat homeland rivals  FC Porto of Portugal, AC Milan of Italy, and, in the final, União Esporte of Brazil along the way.  Indeed, impressive company for YPT to say the least.   
 
YPT will return to The Mundialito in April of 2010. Players will be selected from this years upcoming Residence Program. More information on the Residence Program can be found HERE.

 

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YPTusa's Mundialito 2009 Roster
Back Row L to R: Danny Damiani [VA], Travis Keil [PA], Tarik Gazko [NJ],
Dayne St. Clair [ONT, CA], Julian Flores [TX], Ian Lake [PA], Braulio Adam [TX]. Front Row L to R: Mike Tandoh [PA], Fred 'Smallville' Lukowski, [PA], Callum Johnson [NY], Tanner Mac Dougal [PA], Ricardo Calderon [TX].

YPTusa's captain Callum Johnson and Stuttgart Kicker's [Germany]
captain exchange formalities prior to of the match

YPTusa and AC Milan [Italy]

YPTusa plays in a beach soccer friendly
 with Mexico's Club America

 

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