FRISCO, Texas — There’s a new competition added to this year’s Generation adidas Cup, which adds a small taste of the USA-Mexico rivalry.
Four Under-15 MLS academy teams will play four games apiece against Liga MX teams, starting Wednesday at Toyota Soccer Center. On Saturday, the first-place team from each group will clash, with a champion crowned.
Representing MLS after the Generation adidas Cup qualifying weekends will be LAFC, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls. Sides from Chivas de Guadalajara, Monterrey, Leon and Cruz Azul round out the field.
Given the trends of younger players getting minutes in MLS, even U-15 games can have more relevance than one might think.
“These boys, at the age they are, you look some of the players making their debuts at 16, 17, 18, this is all part of that,” Philadelphia Union academy director Tommy Wilson told MLSsoccer.com. “I remember Brenden Aaronson at 16 playing against a Mexican team and performing brilliantly. These young boys are at a point where some of them may be close to a professional contract, so they might think they might have it all worked out, have had a good season, and then they come up against a different type of opponent, different type of player.”
The quartet of MLS sides are among the best in the Under-15 age group in the Development Academy. LAFC boasts Antonio Leone and Aldahir Rua, recent call-ups to the U.S. U15 BNT in January, where they were joined by Kenan Hot (Red Bulls) and Brandon Craig (Philadelphia Union). Toronto haven’t lost in 15 DA games during the current season, with Hugo Mbongue and Shayan Soltanzadeh two key attacking players. Like TFC, the Union haven’t lost a game in DA play, sitting ahead of the Red Bulls in the Atlantic Division. How that translates against Liga MX opposition is all the more reason to tune in for this week’s games.
For players at that age, lining up against a unique style and a bit of a different opponent can be a huge difference.
“We’ve played against the Mexican teams now for a few years, we know how desperate they are to win games and the passion they bring,” Wilson said. “It’s a real test for our boys, and not just in terms of on the field and trying to work things out, but mentally as well, playing four or five different opponents so quickly.”
There’s little doubt that these games should have an added edge, given the nature of the USA-Mexico rivalry on the field.
“When I got to the GA Cup for the first time, when they played the first game against Mexican competition, it was a fierce competition,” Wilson said. “You almost could’ve played without the ball.”