If there were a word to describe this year’s Chicago Fire Super-20 team, it would be young. Their youthful roster, which includes eight players under 16, and seven players under 18, is what makes this team different from any Super-20 team in the past. However, don’t let their age fool you. These young men can play the beautiful game with the best of them.
The Fire Super-20 team will compete in the 2013 Super-20 League Championship July 18-20 in Bradenton, Fla. The Fire Super-20s are the defending champions and hope to bring home another title this weekend.
Super-20 head coach Larry Sunderland, believes he may have just the team to do it.
“We are very young and we are proud of that.” Sunderland explains. “Our young guys can compete at this level…it’s a good group.”
The Super-20 group in Bradenton is mainly derived from the club’s U-16 USSF Development Academy side that recently finished their season.
With the average age of the team reaching just over 16, the team will have some obvious obstacles to climb this weekend.
“There is no question from the soccer end of it if they can play, they can definitely compete. The question will be, physically, can the 15 and 16 year olds play with the 20 year olds.”
All of the men competing for the Fire this weekend have come through the Fire system and are homegrown players. That includes standout defender, Mauricio Pineda (pictured above left), who already has about two inches on brother and Fire first-teamer Victor.
“Mauricio is 15 years old,” Sunderland said. “He’s a young one, but he will get significant playing time and will contribute.”
Sure, Pineda is young, but he is determined to not let his age hold him back. He said he is confident that his team will be able to compete at this level, regardless of their young age.
“I know the other teams are going to be a lot bigger,” Pineda explains, “but if we just keep the ball and play quick, we will be fine.”
The Fire have won two national championships with their Super-20s, one in 2008 and the other just last year.
They have made six national final appearances since their inception in 2007. The only finals they missed were in 2011 when they chose not to play due to the success of their U-18 team.
There is no question that this league benefits the players who are a part of it. A number of players on the Fire’s initial Super-20 championship team are part of MLS rosters including current first teamer Brendan King.
The U-18 Academy team will compete in a championship as well when they play in the U-19 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships next week. The feat marks the first year the Fire will send teams to their Super-20 and their U-19 teams to their respective national finals.
With such a rich history and the incredibly young roster, the Fire’s future looks bright. There is a good chance that some of these players will one day take the field for the Men in Red.
According to Coach Sunderland, “Some of these young guys have a great future in our program.”
The Chicago Fire Premier Super-20 team was formed in 2007. The purpose of the team is to provide the opportunity for the top 17 to 20 year-old players in North America to play high-level competition in the summer months. The team has been recognized as one of the best in the league, which is backed up by their impressive success since their inception.
“We like the format,” Sutherland explains. “It’s a good platform [to get the players to the next level].”