Commerce City, Colo. - The Colorado Rapids are heading to Houston, Texas this weekend. No, the schedule hasn’t changed; the Rapids Youth Academy will be fielding an Under-17 team to play in the fourth-annual Soccer United Marketing (SUM) U-17 Cup.
The SUM U-17 Cup is a youth tournament comprised exclusively of all 16 Major League Soccer’s Under-17 teams, with the winner of the tournament advancing to play in next year’s prestigious Torneo Quixote youth tournament in Spain and the runner up joining the SuperGroup of the popular Dallas Cup.
“The SUM Cup is a great opportunity to test our team against MLS-specific competition,” said Brian Crookham, Director of Operations for the Rapids Youth Academy. “It is a very professional environment and we know the games will be very fast. Our group has last year’s SUM Cup champion, D.C. United, and recently crowned U-16 national champion Chicago Fire, as well as a very good San Jose Earthquakes team. We are going to be tested in every game, so it is a great environment for the development of our players.”
For first time, the SUM Cup will be held somewhere other than the Rapids’ home complex, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which hosted the first three editions of the tournament. The 2010 SUM U-17 Cup will be held at Houston’s Centennial Park complex from July 23-28, with the final taking place on July 28 at Reliant Stadium before the MLS All-Stars take on Manchester United in the 2010 MLS All-Star game.
The Rapids U-17 team consists of 14-17 year-old players from the Rapids’ U.S. Developmental Academy Teams, as well as three players of the club’s adidas Alliance partner, the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club.
One of the key players on the Rapids squad is 16-year old forward James Rogers, who scored 12 goals in 28 games with the Rapids U-18 team last season in the U.S. Development Academy. Rogers moved with his family to Colorado from Utah in 2009, where he previously played for Real Salt Lake’s youth program. During the 2008 SUM U-17 Cup, Rogers led RSL with seven goals in five games en route to winning the SUM Cup Trophy.
“We get to play against some of the best players in the country because we play in the Rapids academy,” said Rogers. “Being able to play with these guys as well as getting some work in with the Rapids’ first team has really helped my game. This tournament will give us a chance to show how hard we have worked to improve. This will be a really tough group but we will do our best and hopefully make it to the final.”
In June, MLS Executive Vice President of Competition Todd Durbin conducted the draw, which placed the 16 MLS teams into four groups of four. Each team will play against each of the other teams in their respective group, with the winner of each group advancing to the single-game semifinals. The semifinal winners will advance to the finals on July 28.
The Rapids were drawn into Group A along with two-time and defending SUM Cup champion D.C. United, the Chicago Fire, and San Jose Earthquakes. D.C. United won the SUM U-17 Cup in 2007 and 2009, with Real Salt Lake claiming the title in 2008.
“Every team at the tournament will be good and will play at a high level,” said Rapids forward Isaac Martinez, who is from Fort Collins, Colo. “For us, I think it is a great chance for to show how good our team is. As long as we play hard and don’t give up, I think we have a great shot at success in this tournament.”
The Rapids first game is on Friday, July 23 against San Jose at 7 p.m. MT.
THE COLORADO RAPIDS SUM CUP U-17 ROSTER:
Goalkeepers: Alex Chapin (17, Ft. Collins, CO), Andrew Epstein (14, Ft. Collins, CO)
Defenders: Christopher Gurule (16, Longmont, CO), Karsten Hanlin (16, Centennial, CO), Jason Prichard (16, Aurora, CO), Andrew Rodriguez (17, Hendersonville, NV), Jordan Spring (17, Parker, CO), Matthew Taphorn (17, Aurora, CO)
Midfielders: Avery Ball (16, Ft. Collins, CO), Ricardo Perez (15, Ft. Collins, CO), Mathew Polster (17, Las Vegas, NV), Dillon Serna (16, Brighton, CO), Rojesh Shrestha (16, Boulder, CO), Santiago Velez (17, Niwot, CO)
Forwards: Isaac Martinez (14, Greeley, CO), David Pardo (15, Loveland, CO), Juan Carlos Regalado (15, Las Vegas, NV), James Rogers (17, Ft. Collins, CO), Eric Kronenberg (16, Boulder, CO), Austin Seifert (16, Aurora, CO)
Technical Staff: Brian Crookham – Director of Operations, Colorado Rapids Youth Academy; Steve Cooke – Technical Director, Colorado Rapids adidas Alliance; Mitch Murray – Technical Director, Colorado Rapids Youth Academy; Dan Stone – Technical Director, Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club
GROUPS: Watch: 2010 SUM u-17 Cup Draw
RAPIDS U-17 SCHEDULE
Group A winner vs. Group B winner and Group C vs. Group D winner; 5:30 pm, 8 pm MT at Carl Lewis Field
TBD, 3:00 pm MT, at Reliant Stadium