This week, more than 600 of the country's top young talents will square off in the Academy League Finals. As they've worked all season to get to this point, some of the toughest tests - and most star-studded matchups - are set to take place in Tampa. Here are five of the best games you can expect to see at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay this weekend:
The two teams that went head-to-head in the 2022 Academy Cup Final will be clashing again on the first day of Academy League Finals. The first match ended in a penalty shootout, which Indy Eleven took away - could we see a similarly dramatic affair? At least three players in the match will come with USL Championship or League One experience, and they'll be hungry to show what they've got on USL Academy's biggest stage.
Queensboro FC has been one of the best sides in USL Academy competitions since its inception, but their opponent in this match will be one of the most talented at the event. North Carolina FC will be bringing four players with professional matches under their belts to the competition. It's sure to be one of the most anticipated affairs of the entire weekend.
These two USL Championship clubs have some of the most robust Academy setups in the league, and it's going to show this weekend. There could be four professional players suiting up between the sides in this match - two on each side of the pitch. It's sure to be a star-studded way to start Saturday's games.
This match features two clubs that are a prime example of what it means to have academy players in a senior team environment. Between the two rosters, we could see more than 10 players that have gotten regular time with the senior team at one of the clubs.
Both of these squads finished top of their regional divisions, starring multiple senior team players. In the inaugural Academy League Finals, New Mexico United finished third, and they'll be looking to outdo that performance this weekend. This match could be decisive to see who goes to the Final, based on the group standings at that point.