Charlotte FC Academy: MLS Next Tournament & What Comes Next?
Written by: Cole Godfrey
In what most would call a successful inaugural season for the newly founded academy, after going to the playoffs and making it to the round of sixteen in said playoffs, there are a ton of positives moving forward. In the first game of the MLSNext cup, Charlotte took on St. Louis and pulled out a hard-fought 1-0 win. There was instant drama in the first minute with Charlotte having to save a penalty. Wilson got the lone goal of the game and secured the win and a chance to take on host FC Dallas.
After a scoreless first half and a bit of a stalemate, goals were plenty in the second half, with FC Dallas coming out on top 4-1. The U17's then finished off the tournament with a 3-1 loss at the hands of NYCFC. I will say, though, for the club's first season there is absolutely no shame in getting beat by two clubs that have established academies. FC Dallas may be the premier academy in the league, with the likes of Juventus and USMNT star Weston Mckennie making their way through the academy. Club President Nick Kelly spoke about the success on the Mint City Soccer Show, saying, "It was good for our kids if you think about it, in our academy our U17's play with two 14-year-olds, a bunch of 15-year-olds, and we play very few 16 and 17-year-olds, so we're always younger."
When speaking on the win against St. Louis, Kelly stated "St. Louis has like, big boys. They're literally like big 17-year-old kids, and we have a bunch of little kids out there who are extremely talented. So, for them to play against the size was extremely good for us, and for us to get a win on that was awesome."
On the loss to FC Dallas, he said, "We looked good in the first half, but after that, it just shows where we have to get." On the overall competition he saw what he wanted to see from the U17's saying that "our hope was the outcome we had, which was beat who you're supposed to beat and then really get into position of competing against the best talent and see where you need to get to."
As for me personally, I would agree with Nick. The experience for this very young U17 to play against other teams that have the cohesion of having played together for years and measure yourself against the best of the best is a fantastic start to get the academy where it needs to be to be competitive and win games. I am so stoked to see what the future has in store and the future is bright!