The knockout stage at the 2023 Generation adidas Cup began Wednesday, as 16 teams in both the U-15 and U-17 age groups hit the business end of the competition in Bradenton, Florida.
There was a glut of action to sift through, but the Philadelphia Union were undoubtedly among the stories of the day.
Facing English side Arsenal in the Round of 16, the Union lived up to their billing as one of MLS’s top teams in the U-15 age group. Cavan Sullivan provided a dream start, scoring the opener just a minute into the match. A high press from Anisse Saidi forced an awkward back pass that Sullivan eventually slotted into the back of the net. Louis John hit back for the Gunners in the 13th minute, but from there it was all Philly.
First, Anisse Saidi converted a penalty kick to put the Union back in the lead in first-half stoppage time after Gabriel Wesseh was taken down in the box. Saidi scored again after the break, with an assist from Sullivan, to extend the lead. Mateo Gallegos bagged the Union’s fourth goal, sealing a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals against Real Madrid.
Philly weren't the only U-15 side to secure a big win against a European opponent. Center back Gianmarco Di Noto scored the decisive strike in the final minutes of the game, as the Columbus Crew progressed by a 2-1 score against French side Toulouse FC. Columbus will face Orlando City SC, who beat Seattle Sounders FC 1-0, in another quarterfinal matchup.
New York Red Bulls, another MLS side among the favorites, also progressed to the quarterfinals. Tanner Rosborough and Gil de Souza provided second-half goals in a 2-0 win over Houston Dynamo FC. Fellow Texas side Austin FC will take on the Red Bulls after besting the San Jose Earthquakes by the same margin. Abner Zuniga got his side going with a ninth-minute strike, while Cole Coughlin doubled the lead in the 60th minute.
While several quality MLS academy sides are through to the quarterfinals, top clubs loom. First and foremost is the quarterfinal matchup between Real Madrid and Philadelphia; whichever side emerges with a win will be among the favorites to raise silverware. Madrid advanced with a comfortable 3-0 win against LaLiga counterparts Valencia.
There were several close contests in the U-17 Round of 16 matches. Top-seeded Columbus Crew survived a close encounter with Liga MX’s Club León, getting a winner from Brent Adu-Gyamfi with nine minutes left in the game.
That was one of five 1-0 results from Wednesday’s U-17 action, as the combination of high stakes and shortened games meant goals were at a premium. Jared Salazar’s second-half strike secured a spot in the next round for FC Dallas in a clash against a very good Strikers FC squad, while Adam Basse bagged a 50th-minute winner as New York City FC beat Orlando City SC by a lone goal.
It was always going to be a close matchup between LAFC’s attacking depth and a Sporting Kansas City side that posted one of the best defensive records in the group stages. After controlling possession for long stretches, LAFC finally found the breakthrough in the 56th minute, as Tamir Ratoviz got on the end of a Kyrome Lumsden cutback to win it by a 1-0 score. Up next for LAFC is a tough Flamengo side after the Brazilian club knocked out the Houston Dynamo by the same margin.
There were mixed fortunes in shootouts for a pair of MLS teams. The Philadelphia Union advanced on penalty kicks after drawing 0-0 against Nigeria’s Remo Stars FC. Defending champions Seattle Sounders FC were knocked out by Mexico’s Atlas FC, however, after the two sides drew 0-0.
Brazilian side Palmeiras will face the Union on Thursday after beating the New York Red Bulls by a 2-0 score.