Academy Sports Club’s young footballers excelled again, winning the Under-13 Silver championship at the Schwan USA Cup in Minnesota last Saturday.
The local sports club, which is well known for its focus on youth football, had two teams in the Schwan USA Cup, at U-11 and U-13 level.
The Schwan Cup is considered to be the largest youth tournament in the world, involving more than 1,000 teams and 14,000 footballers from all over the United States and 17 other countries. All games are played at the National Sports Center, certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s biggest soccer complex.
“Both teams did extraordinarily well,” said coach Paul Byles. “Our U-11s won their group with one of the best defensive records in their age group and made it to the semifinals, and our U-13s won their group without conceding a goal and eventually the Silver Championship.”
Byles said that both teams trained hard for several months and dealt with their challenges well. Both had tough quarterfinal matches with the U-11s winning on penalties and the U-13s winning an extremely physical game 2-1.
The U-13s beat Boca Juniors, a good Mexican team, 2-0 in their championship game. Academy took 27 players and had the support of 18 parents on the trip.
The club stresses that they were not only representing Academy but also the Cayman Islands as there are many international teams at the event.
“Whenever we travel as a club, we are very well aware that we are also representing our country and this is something that we always reinforce with the players,” Byles said.
“We always take a lot of pride in being able to show the world that the Cayman Islands has a lot of great young football talent.”
He added that the Schwan Cup is also a great experience generally for the players.
“The nature of the tournament is that there are many teams from different age groups, with thousands of youth footballers in a huge facility.
“When you have that, it creates a very exciting atmosphere for the players as they get to meet people from all over the world.”
CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice-President Jeffrey Webb said, “Congratulations to the Academy team on their success at the Schwan Cup in Minnesota.
“Once again, Academy has been a wonderful representative for our country on the regional stage and we look forward to more success from them in the future.”
Virgil Seymour, Academy’s head coach, said, “We are very proud to see the fruits of the hard work of these teams which represents the youngest players at our club.
“This is how you build a good football program, from the bottom up and we are happy to see some success with our general approach.
“On behalf of our board of directors and the entire Academy family, I congratulate coach Paul Byles for doing an excellent job again with these teams.”
Byles said, “This year’s U-11 team consists of the same players which made it to the U-10 finals at the Disney Youth Cup last year, so we can see that there is a consistent performance from these youngsters a year later.”
He said the players are still extremely excited and already talking about where they will compete internationally next year, but everyone will now take a well deserved rest before pre-season training for the local Cayman Islands Football Association leagues.
Academy U-13s also won both the FA Cup and league titles in the CIFA league this season and the U-12 team, which included primarily the U-11 players who went to Minnesota, also had a great season as they won both of CIFA’s U-12 rallies.
Academy also thanked the team managers, assistant coaches, parents and corporate sponsors for their support.