Four Atlanta United Academy teams set to begin postseason play


Atlanta United Academy teams have wrapped the regular season portion of their schedules and four teams are set to begin postseason play this weekend, headlined by the 2023 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and Showcase beginning on Saturday, June 17.

Led by third-year Academy Director Matt Lawrey, Atlanta’s Academy teams competed at seven different age levels this year, with each having varying levels of success. Most notably, the U-15s and U-16s each qualified for MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs and enter the tournament in the Round of 32. Both teams will begin play on Saturday. Also competing in the postseason are the U-17s, who are scheduled to play three matches in the MLS NEXT Showcase that begins on Sunday, and the U-19s, who will host a regional semifinal in the United Premier Soccer League’s (UPSL) playoffs on Saturday.

Meanwhile, with MLS NEXT not sanctioning a postseason for age groups below the U-15 level, Atlanta’s younger academy teams ended their seasons last week (June 7-11) at the Patterson Cup. A prestigious tournament hosted by Sporting Kansas City, this year’s Patterson Cup featured 37 teams from 17 different MLS Academies across three age groups. Atlanta’s U-14s won its age group, while its U-13’s and U-12s reached their respective final.

“We are very proud of the growth and accomplishments of our Academy players and teams over the course of the year,” Lawrey said. “We are always seeking ways to challenge and push ourselves to play against the best. The MLS NEXT Cup and Showcase – as well as the Patterson Cup – give our coaches and teams great opportunities to compete against top talent domestically. Our U-14s had an incredible weekend winning the Patterson Cup, and we are looking forward to continuing to represent our city and our club in Dallas.”

MLS NEXT Cup, which is set to begin this weekend, is a single-elimination competition featuring the best 128 teams across four age groups (U-15, U-16, U-17, U-19). Teams qualified for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs based on results from league play or by winning their respective group at MLS NEXT Flex – a qualifying event that took place from May 12-16. The event marks the culmination of the 2022-23 MLS NEXT season, which included over 9,000 matches played across all age groups.

Thirty-one MLS NEXT Cup Playoff games, including all four championship matches, will stream live on MLS Season Pass, the subscription service from Apple and Major League Soccer on the Apple TV app, available in more than 100 countries and regions. Across the four age groups, 12 Round of 32 matches, six quarterfinal games, and each of the eight semifinal contests will also be available to watch on MLS Season Pass. Additionally, the U-19 ‘Best Of’ match will be streamed on Tuesday, June 20. MLS Season Pass marks the official kickoff of the 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple, a historic first for a major professional sports league.

Finally, in addition to a strong season on the field, the Academy also graduated 21 players from its program this year with 17 committing in May to play collegiately. Another four already signed professional contracts in Caleb Wiley, Alan Carleton, Jonantan Villal and Luke Brennan. The program also recently announced a new educational program with Atlanta International School that is set to launch in the fall.

“The Academy has grown immensely from its foundation in 2016,” Lawrey said. “While a lot of our focus is on the field, we always want to ensure our Academy players and families are supported in the best way possible, which includes life outside of soccer as well. We’re exciting about teaming up with Atlanta International School, which gives us an incredible opportunity to offer our players the very best education, as well as give the flexibility to continue to train and work towards their athletic goals.”

Atlanta United Academy Season Recaps

U-19s (head coach Ricky Davey) – Competing in UPSL’s Premier Division, the U-19s finished the Spring portion of the regular season 7-1-2 (23 points) and in second place in the Georgia Division. They’ll start their playoff journey by hosting a regional semifinal at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground against Club The Strongest Atlanta on Saturday, June 17. If the U-19s win their region, they’ll move on to a 32-team national tournament.

U-17s (head coach Steve Covino) – The U-17s competed in MLS NEXT and in one of the most competitive divisions, the East’s South Division, which consists of five MLS Academies. The team finished regular season play 12-7-3 (39 points), where it finished in second place out of five. It will wrap its season by playing three games at the U-17 Showcase, starting Sunday, June 18.

U16s (head coach Kevin Kratz) – The U-16s qualified for MLS NEXT Cup by winning the nine-team Southeast Division with a regular season record of 22-1-1 (69 points). They will open the tournament in the Round of 32 against Florida Rush at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 17. The winner will play the following day against the winner of Colorado Rush and New York Soccer Club.

U-15s (head coach Zach Herold) – The U-15s qualified for MLS NEXT Cup by going undefeated at MLS NEXT Flex’s qualifying tournament. They’ll open MLS NEXT Cup in the Round of 32 against Chicago Fire on Saturday, June 17 at 11:30 a.m. The winner will play the following day against the winner of Real Salt Lake and Sockers FC. The 15s finished the regular season 11-7-4 (37 points), good for third place in the MLS NEXT’s South Division, which consists of five MLS Academies.

U-14s (head coach Dean Atkins) – The U-14s won MLS NEXT’s Southeast Division by finishing the regular season 23-1-0 (69 points) and in first place of the 13-team division. The team finished the season by winning the Patterson Cup last week, going 4-0-0 in the group stage before beating Columbus Crew (3-2) in the semifinals and Chicago Fire (3-1) in the final.

U-13s (head coach Will Bates) – The U-13s scored a remarkable 133 goals in the regular season and finished with a perfect record of 21-0-0 (63 points) and in first place in MLS NEXT’s Southeast Division. It wrapped the season in the Patterson Cup last week, going 4-0-0 in the group stage before beating Chicago Fire 4-3 in the semifinals. The squad ultimately lost the final to Houston Dynamo.

U-12s (head coach Bruno Ramos) – The U-12s competed in the Southeastern Clubs Champions League (SCCL), where they were able to challenge themselves against top local talent. They wrapped up their season finishing first place in their group in Patterson Cup, going 3-1-0 and beating Inter Miami in the semi-finals with a score of 3-1.  The U-12s lost the final to Chicago Fire.

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