Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency teams will be escaping the cold weather as they head to sunny Florida for the annual United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) Winter Showcase.
The mini-tournament will be held at the Premier Sports Complex in Bradenton from November 30 to December 4 and will see both Whitecaps FC Residency outfits squeeze three matches into four days.
Aside from coming up against unfamiliar opponents that are based in the Eastern and Central conferences of the USSDA, Whitecaps FC’s U-16 and U-18 teams will also have the chance to play the academy sides of two other Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs.
The U-18 side (3W-3L-1D) open their tournament against Raleigh, North Carolina-based CASL Chelsea FC Academy (5W-1L-1D) on Friday, before taking on Sporting Kansas City (6W-3L-0D) the following day and then finally Crew Soccer Academy (5W-6L-1D) on December 3.
The U-16 team will play the same opponents, starting with the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division leader CASL (6W-1L-0D) on Saturday, then Sporting Kansas City (4W-3L-2) on Sunday before wrapping up their tournament on Tuesday against Crew Soccer Academy (10W-1L-1D), who are top of the Central Conference’s Mid-America Division.
U-16 Residency head coach Craig Dalrymple (pictured) said Whitecaps FC will be bringing a total of 35 players to Florida, with 18 players assigned to the U-18 team and 17 to the U-16 group. There will also be opportunities for U-16 players to play for the Gordon Forrest-led U-18 side at certain points.
“For the showcase, the USSDA tries to match-up games against opponents you wouldn’t particularly see in your regular conference schedule,” said Dalrymple. “And obviously they try to match up teams that are of similar caliber, so it’s good that we’re playing against these three teams.
“They have winning records, they have good competitive sides, and they’ll give us a different type of test than the Western Conference teams give us.”
Facing the whirlwind three-in-four schedule, Dalrymple is confident the players will be able to cope with an intense workload.
“The players did fitness testing this week and the results were quite positive,” he said. “We’re three-and-a-half months into the season so in terms of physical preparation the fitness levels are actually where they need to be and we’re feeling quite confident going into the tournament.”