Next Up: Strong Finish to Fall Semester as Academy Heads into MLS Next Fest
The Academy's fourth month of the season tends to be the point where staff and players can get a real gauge of where they currently stand.
"In the last four months, there's been a lot of positive things happening for the Academy," explains Executive Academy Director Bryan Scales. "I think you can just start to see some of those signs indicating the trajectory of the Club, Academy, and the players and the environment."
So, what are some of these positive things going on in the Academy? Find out in this edition of Next Up, your hub for monthly updates on Charlotte FC's Academy.
Recapping Nimfasha Berchimas' U-17 World Cup
As mentioned in the previous edition of Next Up, Charlotte FC's homegrown, Nimfasha Berchimas, made the final cut of the USYNT U-17s final World Cup roster which ran throughout the month of December. While the US was unfortunately knocked out in the Round of 16 by the eventual winners, Germany, Berchimas had a major impact on the team despite being the youngest player on the roster.
In his four overall appearances with three starts, the High Point, N.C. native contributed three goals, earning him the title of the team's leading scorer in the tournament. He was just one goal short of tying Freddy Adu's four goal tally in his historic U-17 World Cup run.
"We're obviously very proud of him," said Scales. "But now there's this big spotlight on him and he knows this. Now the most important part of this experience will now be getting back to the Charlotte FC and Crown Legacy environment and getting ready for preseason with the goal of being able to put in consistent good performances."
The youngest U.S. player at the U-17 @FIFAWorldCup in 20 years, forward Nimfasha Berchimas has made a splash with a team-leading three goals at the competition.
U-20s Advance to Regional UPSL Finals
Charlotte FC's new second team, Crown Legacy, has rightfully garnered a lot of attention. However, because of that, Charlotte's other new team has flown under the radar. This year was also the inaugural season of Charlotte FC's new UPSL team, which serves as the Club's U-20 side and bridges the gap between the youth U-17s and professional Crown Legacy.
Just this past weekend they beat SC Heat to become Conference Champions and now advance to play in the Regional Championship.
"The win on Saturday night against SC Heat was a big one," said Scales. "Knockout game against SC Heat who's always been kind of the dominant UPSL club in this region. We've always had good games against them.
"Now this game on Saturday night was back and forth. I thought our guys played really, really well. You had 17 to 18-year-old kids playing against men and showed their resilience being able to battle back late in the game to tie it up. Then went on to penalties, kept their cool, and survived to advance."
Up next for the U-20s is keeping up their playoff run with potentially to host the Regional Final as they continue to push for the UPSL National Finals.
Ashley Westwood Visits Academy
This past week, Charlotte's U-15's and U-17's were visited by none other than Charlotte FC captain, Ashley Westwood. He shared his experience coming up through an academy himself and eventually reaching the heights of playing in the Premier League.
According to Scales, it was "an impactful event that was an open conversation between him and the players."
"It just was an open discussion about his pathway, mistakes he made, things he would do differently, resilience, and battling back from injury. The guys in that auditorium want to be where he is, and a couple more steps could see them playing with Ashley Westwood."
MLS Next Fest
One of the MLS's premier youth tournaments, MLS Next Fest, is back. It's an opportunity for teams to play against some of the best youth sides they normally wouldn't have a chance to play against. It also serves as a way to earn higher seeding for the main event, Generation Adidas Cup.
Both Charlotte FC's U-15s and U-17s are participating in the tournament and will play three matches against other MLS academy sides. This year's tournament runs from December 5-10 at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, Arizona.
"It's a great way to finish the fall semester and is one of the best events of the year," said Scales. "It's not a playoff format so it's not a knockout tournament. You get three games to really show everyone where your team is at this stage of the year before moving into a well-earned break."
The U-17's had a solid month that included beating rivals Atlanta United and drawing Nashville SC as they currently sit second in their MLS division.
"They've had some really good performances - very competitive, good mentality. I am hoping that as we move through January into the new year, that a number of our U-17s will be back in the Crown Legacy environment to kind of make that jump into the deep end of the pool."
The U-17s are currently in Phoenix, Arizona participating in MLS Next Fest and will come up against a challenging set of three MLS sides: Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo, and Vancouver Whitecaps.
The U-15s wrapped up an excellent month with a great performance against Nashville SC, going into MLS Next Fest with momentum.
"They were excellent," said Scales. "They've had some of the best performances of the year over the last month. They've got a number of guys in that team that have really, really helped push that group forward. We feel they're making a ton of progress."
The U-15s will also face three strong MLS sides in MLS Next Fest: Vancouver Whitecaps, Sporting Kansas City, and Portland Timbers.
The U-14s played against Atlanta United but ultimately lost despite having a good performance and showing a lot of growth from the start of the season. They've "made a lot of progress" and "are in a good spot" in Scales' words as they ended their fall semester strong.
As previously mentioned by Scales, the primary goal for the U-14s is to assimilate them into the philosophy and playing style of Charlotte FC. Over the past few months, significant progress has been made in that regard, and there is eager anticipation of reaching even greater heights in the latter part of the Academy season.
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Major League Soccer Stories from December 7, 2023
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- Next Up: Strong Finish to Fall Semester as Academy Heads into MLS Next Fest - Charlotte FC
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