A few weeks ago, the Philadelphia Union U-16s and U-18s attended United States Soccer Federation, Development Academies Winter Showcase. During the Showcase, we played other Development Academy teams from around the nation.
We all met at Philadelphia International Airport two days after Thanksgiving at 6 a.m. When we arrived we were given our boarding passes and proceeded through the security gates. After everyone was situated with their bags down at the gate, the team headed to get some food at a few different spots in the airport. We boarded the flight at 7 a.m. and landed in Tampa at 10 a.m.
We collected all of our belongings and team gear at baggage claim. We travel with items such as balls, a medical table, medical supplies, kits and training gear. Before going to the hotel, we had a training session at IMG Academy to loosen up our legs before our first game on Sunday.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Lido Beach, which overlooked the Florida Gulf Coast. The small town of Lido Beach was a quarter of a mile away, and had a circle called Saint Armin’s Circle with shops and restaurants we were free to utilize. Saturday, we had a flexible schedule and were able to go into town as long as we were back for the team dinner at the hotel restaurant. We had
a curfew at 10:30 p.m. to give us plenty of sleep for our first challenge at noon the next day.
We faced one of the most well known names in the Major League Soccer, the Seattle Sounders, at 1 p.m. on Sunday. At 9 a.m. Sunday morning there was a team meal to fill us up before the match. After the meal we were given the roster and a pre-game presentation to review tactics, set pieces and our goals for the match. Once the presentation ended, we went to pick up our kits from our kit manager. Just an hour later we departed for our match.
The showcase took place at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. The fields were some of the best-maintained grass fields I’ve ever played on. After a great performance from the entire team we departed the complex with a 2-0 victory over the Sounders. Once we came back to the hotel, we had a short recovery session in the ocean. We did some stretching and had a team meal around 4 p.m.
Monday we had another match, this time against another MLS academy, the San Jose Earthquakes. The team was up and at breakfast at 8 a.m. and had another presentation to review our individual and team responsibilities on the field. Once again we collected our uniforms and departed from the hotel. Unfortunately, we came out with a tough 2-1 loss.
We had another recovery session in the ocean followed by a team meal. Later that night we had the pleasure to watch the U.S. U-17 National team play Brazil’s U-17s in the Nike Friendlies. In other unfortunate results, the US suffered a 4-1 loss. Both sides played a great brand of soccer and it was great to see where we ranked up with our nations finest players.
Tuesday was our day off. We were able to head into town and had a very easy schedule. After lunch we took a bag of balls to the beach and had a small 5v5 beach soccer tournament. Later we finished some schoolwork to make sure we maintained high quality grades in all of our classes.
Our last day of the Showcase was Wednesday and we had one last team to face. We faced off against Beachside F.C. at 11 a.m. Again we had breakfast together at 8 a.m. and a game presentation just after that. At 10 a.m. we had our bags packed and were ready for our final game of the week. Following a tough 80 minutes of competitive play, we came out with a 3-0 win over Beachside. Following the game, we headed to the hotel to shower, eat and finally head back home.
It was a fulfilling week, and we were and are treated like a true professional team.