A thrilling weekend of games came to a head Sunday, as teams from all over the country competed in their final matches at the 2023 USL Academy Cup.
In the first session of the day, it was the Nona SC boys taking center stage as they defeated Phoenix Rising FC in the U13 Boys Elite championship 1-0, thanks to Enzo Lima’s strike in the 23rd minute. It was Nona SC keeper Luan Silva, however, who secured Golden Ball and Golden Glove awards following the win. Tampa Bay United defeated Indy Eleven 2-1 to finish third in the division.
Next up, it would be Indy Eleven and Tampa Bay United squaring off again, in the U15 Boys Elite division final in a thriller. Tampa Bay started on the front foot, scoring just two minutes in, but the visitors from Indianapolis equalized. They’d be asked to do so again in the 47th minute when Gabriel Jones netted one, but not before facing a serious setback. In the 41st minute, midfielder Jake Alb was sent off for a hard foul, and not before long, Indy Eleven found themselves down a player and down a goal. Just minutes before the final whistle, Sam Knox stepped up and fired a shot home to send the match to extra time, and the race was on. Unable to break the deadlock, the teams went to a penalty shootout. Indy Eleven’s players calmly stepped up and fired home all five of their spot kicks, taking home the title and completing the comeback. Real Colorado defeated Louisville City FC 1-0 to take home third place.
Finally, Indy Eleven and Tampa Bay United would meet one last time on the biggest stage of all, the U19 Boys Elite Division final. The match was scoreless nearly in its entirety – cagey midfield play, strong tackling and stout back lines featured heavily in the match. The two teams went into extra time scoreless as they prepared to go the distance. At the time, Indy Eleven had just been held to one shot on target, while Tampa Bay had four attempts at the goal. It was a volley from Indy Eleven’s Grayson Elmquist, though, in the 78th minute that did the job for the defending Academy Cup Champions. A scramble on a last-second corner nearly found Tampa Bay United their equalizer, but it wasn’t enough to take the trophy out of Indy’s hands. Hartford Athletic defeated Wake FC 1-0 to round out the podium finishes.
The U19 Girls Elite championship match shaped up to be the battle of North Carolina as NC Courage bested NC Fusion by a final score of 2-1. Fusion struck first when University of Minnesota commit Aaryn Gabriel netted her third goal of the tournament in the 6th minute off an assist from Aislynn Maguire. In the 15th minute Phoebe Goldthwaite, who went on to win the Golden Ball, provided the assist for Lauryn Thompson in thrilling fashion. The two teams remained level until the 47th minute when University of Pittsburgh commit Rylee Keeley hit the long-range shot to give the Courage the lead. NC Fusion continued to look threatening, knocking on the door a couple times in the second half, however the Courage were able to outlast Fusion, earning the 2023 Academy Cup championship trophy.
Greenville Liberty SC found themselves on the podium after defeating Indy Eleven 2-0 in the third-place match. Lydia Parker struck first off an assist from Eva McCoy, and tournament Golden Boot winner Autumn Cayelli launched a beautiful chip over the keeper from midfield in the 70th minute to seal the victory for Greenville.
The largest Academy Cup to date continued to raise the level of play, as teams from all across the nation showed up and showed out in 2023.
|Division||Winning Club||Runners Up|
|U19B Elite||Indy Eleven||Tampa Bay United|
|U19B Premier||Ironbound SC||AC Connecticut|
|U19B Select||Southern Soccer Academy||Charlotte Eagles|
|U19B Legacy||North Carolina Fusion||FC Carolinas|
|U19B Classic||Miami AC||East Atlanta Dutch Lions|
|U19G Elite||NC Courage||NC Fusion|
|U19G Premier||Lexington SC||One Knoxville SC|
|U19G Select||Morris Elite SC||Swan City SC|
|U15B Elite||Indy Eleven||Tampa Bay United|
|U15B Premier||AC Connecticut||FC Golden State Force|
|U15B Select||Southern Soccer Academy||Charlotte Eagles|
|U15B Legacy||Swan City SC||FC Bascome Bermuda|
|U15G Elite||Chattanooga Red Wolves||Real Central NJ|
|U15G Premier||Morris Elite SC||Swan City SC|
|U13B Elite||Nona FC||Phoenix Rising FC|
|U13B Premier||Ironbound SC||Greenville Triumph SC|
|U13B Select||Little Rock Rangers||SC United Bantams|
|U13G Elite||Lexington SC||Southern Soccer Academy|