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The Best of the 2021 USL Academy Cup

By USL-Academy.com Staff, 06/10/21, 3:00PM EDT

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Which Players and Teams Stood Out at the Inaugural USL Academy Cup?

Spectacular soccer was on display over the course of the USL Academy Cup, presented by PUMA, and among the many teams were some players who turned heads with impressive performances. Whether it was through scoring brilliant goals, bossing the midfield or locking down opposing attackers, here are the teams and players that caught the attention of those in attendance at the Hillsborough County Tournament Sportsplex in Tampa, Fla.

TOP TEAMS

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Tampa Bay United - U17B
Tampa Bay United had an incredibly strong and resilient weekend at the USL Academy Cup. They faced some of the toughest opposition in the country and came up on top in every match, including the final. Each game played by TBU was a close one, with the play on the field being extremely competitive with a single goal defining the outcome in 3 of the 4 games. The fact that Tampa Bay United came out on top not only in each game, but the weekend as a whole, shows the resilience and talent the team has.
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Orange County Soccer Club - U17G
OCSC had a very strong weekend as a team. Thought to be one of the best in the competition, the team was able to prove its talents on the pitch by leaving the weekend as an undefeated champion. Not only did they win every game, they had a +12 goal differential to close out the weekend. From the depth of goalkeepers to the success up top, the team was full of extremely skillful young athletes with a lot of potential to do amazing things in the soccer world.
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SC United Bantams - U17G
SC United Bantams had a great weekend, even without a trophy lift at the end. They went 3-0-1, with their only loss coming from OCSC, the eventual winners of the division, and had a +15 goal differential. The team saw multiple girls with more than one goal and more than one assist, and featured one of the best goalkeepers in the tournament. SC United Bantams came out to play their game and did so successfully.
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Indy Eleven - U13B and U17B
Indy Eleven brought two elite youth teams to represent the USL Championship club in the inaugural USL Academy Cup, and they did not disappoint. Both teams were in the Elite Divisions of their respective age groups and both went undefeated in the group stage to see them reach the finals. Unfortunately, both Indy teams fell in the finals but not without putting up a strong effort.
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Inter Miami CF - U13B
Inter Miami CF was a force to be reckoned with right at the start of the tournament. The kids showcased skill and teamwork way beyond their years. They went undefeated in group play, winning two games and tying another, leading them to the Elite finals for the U13B. They came out victorious and ended the weekend with a +12 goal differential. IMCF also fielded an additional team in the U13B Premier division that was its U12 team. Not only did these boys compete at a higher age group, they won the division. Inter Miami CF fielded two strong teams with loads of young talent that will no doubt have a bright future.

TOP PLAYERS

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Francis Jacobs
Midfielder
Orange County SC U17B
One of the most highly anticipated players at the tournament, Francis Jacobs played four strong games for the USL Championship U17B side. Already on a professional contract with the senior team, Francis saw the weekend as an opportunity to lead the young team and show how one can develop from training with a senior team. Though his team did not win, Francis was able to prove his talent again at an USL Academy event, and showcased the importance of the pathway.
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Asher Jones
Midfielder
Tampa Bay United U17B
At just 15-years-old, TBU’s Asher Jones had a strong impact on the pitch for his squad. He scored a goal in the final group stage, where his team needed to win to secure the spot in the final, and scored the opening goal for his side in the final. For all his hardwork and leadership on and off the pitch, Asher was awarded the Golden Ball- given to the most impactful player on the field. Asher is the reason why USL Academy required teams to roster at least three underage players, so that younger talents had an opportunity to perform at a higher level.
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Antone Bossenberry
Forward/Midfielder
Inter Miami CF U13B
The captain for the U13 squad was a leader on and off the pitch for the talented team. Not only did he score 5 goals and tally an assist, Antone was always the first player to celebrate another teammate’s accomplishment. His skill level was also elite for his age, being able to take defenders one-on-one without an issue. Antone will no doubt continue to make a difference at the club level, already showing so much talent at such a young age.
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Grace Thao
Midfielder
Orange County SC U17G
The captain of OCSC, Grace Thao, had herself an incredible weekend, earning her the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards. She scored at least one goal in each game, including an important one in the final to help give OCSC the victory. Thao came out to play this weekend, proving her skill set against some of the best opposition in the country.
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Josai Vereen
Forward
AC Connecticut U13B
The number 10 for AC Connecticut, Josai Vereen, had a successful weekend to say the least, scoring a hat trick in each of the group stage games. With 9 goals and 3 assists, Josai helped his team reach the U13B Premier finals where they inevitably fell to Ft. Lauderdale CF. Despite not lifting the trophy, Josai showed a lot of promise and talent for someone who is only 12.
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Marina Boni
Goalkeeper
SC United Bantams U17G
SC United Bantams had an overall successful weekend, much to the success of goalkeeper Marina Boni. With two shutouts and a goals against average of 0.75, Marina showcased the difference a keeper can make for a team. She was a stellar keeper, making incredible saves when called upon, and even distributed the ball like a pro. She kept the backline organized and was very vocal for her teammates' benefit.
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Jacob Hines
Midfielder
Inter Miami CF U13B
The Inter Miami CF center defensive midfielder was a force to be reckoned with in each of the games for the club. Jacob Hines was a strong presence on the field not only for his size, but for his ability to contain and distribute the ball. He was a great defender when called upon and the play always seemed to build through him. Because of his efforts, Jacob was awarded the Golden Ball for his age group.
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Christian Cook
Forward
Charlotte Independence U17B
Charlotte Independence showed a lot of promise throughout the weekend, especially forward Christian Cook who was heavily involved in each game for his team. An incredibly quick and skilled player, Christian was able to easily beat defenders to the ball and scored multiple goals from one-on-one breakaways. Good in the air and fast on the ball are only a few talents Christian showcases, pointing him in the right direction for a future career.
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Katelyn Hicks
Defender
Tampa Bay United (P) (U17G)
Tampa Bay United (P) won the tournament for its division without giving up a goal, in part because of Katelyn Hicks and the strong defensive line. Between the four shutouts and multiple goal wins, TBU (P) dominated the group and final. Katelyn was a strong presence in the backline defense, and even put up numbers in the final third- scoring a goal and tallying an assist herself.
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Enrique Ochoa
Forward/Midfielder
FC Golden State Force (U13B)
Enrique Ochoa was hard to miss on the field from his skill level to his tall height for a 12 year old. He often found a way to use his height to his advantage when both in and out of possession in the final third. Scoring 6 goals in 4 games, Enrique showed he was a dynamic player on the ball who can play both forward and midfield with confidence and consistency. He was awarded the Golden Boot for scoring the most goals in his division.

AWARD WINNERS

U13B

Award Team Player

Golden Ball

Inter Miami FC

Jacob Hines

Golden Boot

FC Golden State Force

Enrique Ochoa

Golden Glove

Charlotte Independence

Nolan Bosche

u17G

Award Team Player

Golden Ball

Orange County SC

Grace Thao

Golden Boot

Orange County SC

Grace Thao

Golden Glove

SC United Bantams

Marina Boni

U17B

Award Team Player

Golden Ball

Tampa Bay United

Asher Jones

Golden Boot

Real Colorado

Cy Sokolowski

Golden Glove

Charlotte Independence

Hugh Hoffman

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