FRISCO, Texas — At the end of a long, hot week at the Pizza Hut Park complex, there was a sense of accomplishment at the Generation adidas Cup.
Coaching staffs were pleased to have gotten a chance to test themselves against other academy programs around the country. In all, 16 U-17 MLS academy sides were joined by eight U-15 teams for the week-long competition. Only two MLS teams, newcomers Portland and Vancouver, were missing.
“Anytime we get the MLS teams together and continue to play each other, I think it’s a great opportunity, [and] a great venue here in Frisco," said John Parry, Sporting Kansas City's academy director of coaching. "The boys really enjoy it.”
The grueling heat proved to be a real test for the U-17s as they battled through five games in seven days. By the week’s final close on Sunday, the temperatures had soared higher than 100 degrees. But that was all part of the experience of the fifth edition of the tournament: testing MLS Academy youngsters and giving them a glimpse into what it really means to be a pro soccer player.
“It was a first taste of being a professional,” said MLS technical director Jeff Agoos, who helped organize and run the tournament. “This is what it’s all about — the ability to understand what it’s like to be professional both on and off the field and I give a lot of credit to the clubs maintaining a very high standard.”
It was also a chance for a club like Toronto FC — who don’t play in the USSF Development Academy League — to play against competition their own age.
“These types of tournaments are needed for our boys because we play up in Canada in a men’s league,” said Danny Dichio, Toronto FC's academy coach. “To come and play and come against our own age group is good for our boys’ confidence and you saw that in our actual play.”
A competition like this one — with group stages and a final — tests players at critical junctures in games, and it gives talent at a young age the opportunity to stand up and deliver.
“It was a great week of soccer," Dichio said. We had a high level of competition, [and] the quality was very good. This is the beginning stages for the academies so we’re very encouraged by the development of our kids, but we know we have a lot of work to do in the future.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.