FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The magic of the cup has come to the Development Academy, and the New England Revolution Under-19 squad is just three wins away from lifting a trophy.
New England’s U19s have advanced to the quarterfinals of the inaugural Development Academy Cup, joining five other MLS clubs (Toronto FC, FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union, New York City FC, Montreal Impact), Empire United, and De Anza Force in the final eight.
The quarterfinals, semifinals, and final will be played between April 30 and May 4 in Kansas City, with the bracket for the quarterfinals yet to be determined.
“I’m really proud,” said Under-19 head coach Marcelo Santos. “It’s very difficult to get to this stage, and I thought the guys throughout the year had a goal in mind to get to this point. Slowly but surely, they achieved.”
New England reached the quarterfinals by topping their group at the DA Winter Cup last weekend, opening with draws against the Houston Dynamo and Crossfire Premier before rolling past Pateadores – coached by former Revolution defender Ted Chronopoulos – with a 3-0 win in the group stage finale.
Director of Youth Development Bryan Scales pointed to current U19 players like Trevor Burns (son of former Revolution defender and General Manager Michael Burns), Austin Causey (son of former Revolution goalkeeper Jeff Causey), Nate Metsack, Dennis Ramirez, and Colby Quinones, noting the experience they’ve gained during previous playoff runs with the Revolution Academy.
“This is a real tangible sign of progress,” Scales said. “Those guys were all in the playoffs last year, and the year before. Those are big moments and big experience opportunities for those players. When they go into a situation like this, that experience makes a big difference.”
All of those knockout matches – including the upcoming DA Cup quarterfinal – present young players with the chance to play in pressure-filled situations, and that can only help progress their development as they move up the ladder towards the professional ranks.
“It’s essential,” Santos said of the opportunity for the U19s to play on a big stage. “That’s why it’s so important for them to get in this position – because without those games, it doesn’t put them under that kind of pressure, it doesn’t challenge them enough sometimes.”
Those opportunities aren’t just critical for the players trying to earn professional contracts, but also some who’ve already joined the first team. Nicolas Firmino and Damian Rivera both started all three matches at the DA Winter Cup, with Firmino scoring the final goal in the U19s’ convincing win over Pateadores.
That consistent link between the Academy and first team – and Revolution II, which will likely feature several Revolution Academy players and first teamers – harnesses the “one club” mentality, and presents regular, tangible evidence to young players that there is a clear path the pros.
“If you’re 16, 17 years old, these are big opportunities for you,” said Scales. “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. No one’s looking at the birth certificate of these players when they go up with the first team, or they come down and play with the 19s.
“You’re playing in competitive games where you’re stretched, where you’re under pressure, and that’s how we feel is the best way to create a professional soccer player.”