Sporting Arkansas had three teams advance to the knockout rounds of the 2022 US Youth Soccer Southern Region championships in June, making it the first time in the 24-year history of the club that multiple teams have emerged from USYS South Region group play in the same year. The 2005 Boys, 2006 Boys Premier, and 2008 Boys all advanced to the knockout rounds, with the 06 and 08 boys winning to advance to the Regional Semifinal.
While the club has had teams qualify for the South Regional Championships (formerly called the Region III Championships) in the past, this was the first time on record that Sporting Arkansas has had a group winner (2008 Boys), and the first time the club has seen multiple teams advance from their groups.
The 2005 Boys earned 5 points from their three group games, drawing with the state champions from Mississippi and Alabama, and earning a full 3 points with a 6-2 win over Oklahoma. After an injury to their goalkeeper in the final group game, the 05s depended on a very strong goalkeeping performance from field player Tristan Davis in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinal draw saw Sporting Arkansas matched up with the West Florida Flames, who advanced from their group with +18 goal differential in their three games, including an impressive zero goals allowed. Davis put on a great show in the net to keep the Flames off the board for most of the game, but the Florida state champs put their stalwart defense on full display, and managed to score in the final 10 minutes to advance past Sporting 05s by a goal.
The 2006 Premier Boys made a statement in their first game of the tournament, as they put 3 goals past the Miami Breakers 06 boys- the #1 team in the nation in GotSport’s rankings- in a 3-2 victory. After a second game loss to another Florida team, the 06s proceed to win their 3rd group game, and advanced to the quarterfinal on 6 points. After a strong 2-1 quarterfinal win over Georgia, the 06 Premier boys eventually fell in overtime of the regional semifinal to a very scrappy and organized team from Louisiana. The game saw two candidates for “Goal of the Tournament,” with a 35-yard screamer from Baton Rouge in the first half only being outmatched by Ivan Contreras’ overhead kick in the final minutes of second half. After an OT penalty kick for Louisiana sealed the game, the Sporting 06 boys immediately set their sights on a return trip to Regionals in 2022-23.
The 2008 Boys also drew two teams from Florida in their group, including the Florida State Champions who were #3 in the nation in GotSport rankings. After a very cautious 1-1 draw in their first match versus a Florida representative, the 08 Boys turned up the pressure and won their next two matches, including a 2-1 win over the Florida State Champs (and eventual Regional Champions). 7 points from three games was enough for the 08 Boys to win their group, and they advanced to tough quarterfinal match vs South Texas. The 08 Boys came away with a 2-1 win in an overtime thriller in the quarterfinals, but eventually ran out of gas in a semifinal loss to a strong team from Tennessee.
Sporting Arkansas 2004 Boys also advanced to the Regional Championships. A short roster and the extremely hot temperatures made an already difficult task even more challenging for this team, as the 04 Boys fell in their opening game against Tennessee by a 2-1 score. The 04 Boys kept fighting for their remaining group games, but did not advance out of their group.
In the club’s first year back in under the USYS umbrella, Sporting Arkansas sent four teams to the 2021-22 USYS Regional Tournament.
What is the USYS National Championship Series?
The four USYS Regional Championships are part of the USYS National Champions Series, which is a year-long competition, that begins with State League play among more than 10,000 clubs and 3 million players registered to USYS’s 54 State Associations. Teams compete in state league to qualify for their respective State Cups, then the State Cup champions of each state’s top division are invited, along with qualifiers from the USYS National League, to one of the four Regional Championships. The Regional Championship winner in each age group is invited, along with qualifiers from the USYS NL P.R.O., to participate in the USYS National Championship, which has been crowing youth soccer national championships since the 1970s. While the landscape of youth soccer has evolved over the years, the USYS NCS yearlong qualification model holds strong as one of the few models that rewards teams with competitive opportunities based solely on their merit. No team can join a USYS State Cup, Regional Championship, or the National Championship of the USYS National Championship Series without first earning their spot through state league or national league competition.