Development Academy teams open season this weekend

Welcome to this week’s Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Update, which includes information on tournaments, programs, events and achievements involving the Rapids’ youth initiatives.

DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY TEAMS OPEN SEASON AGAINST HOUSTON DYNAMO SATURDAY: The Colorado Rapids Development Academy U-16 and U-18  teams will kick off their season this weekend against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday and Texas Rush on Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. 

As part of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy structure, the Rapids play in the Frontier Division of the Central Conference, along with Colorado Rush AJ Auxere, Minnesota Thunder Academy, Real Colorado, Shattick-Saint Mary's Soccer Academy, Sporting Kansas City, St. Louis Scott Gallegher Metro and St. Louis Scott Gallegher Missouri.

Each team play home and away matches against the other teams in their division, plus games against non-division opponents from across the country during the 9-month season. The top 32 teams in each age group advance to the Playoffs, where they compete for one of eight spots in the Academy Finals Week.

To maintain a focus on training, Academy teams do not play in any other leagues, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events without written permission from Academy staff. Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only 2 exceptions: high school soccer and national team duty.

EIGHT RAPIDS ACADEMY PLAYERS WIN PREP BOYS STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS: A total of eight Rapids Academy players participated in Prep Boys State Championship matches on Wednesday, November 9 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and all emerged as victors. Denver East, with five Rapids Academy players, won the 5A title with a 2-0 victory over Heritage High School, and Mullen High School, which three Rapids players attend, defeated Evergreen 1-0 for the 4A championship.

MATT POLSTER NAMED MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Matt Polster, a rookie at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (NCAA –DI), was named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year. Polster, a member of the Rapids adidas Alliance club Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club, started all 20 matches for the Cougars this season in the SIUE midfield. He tallied two goals and a team-high six assists, and is the first SIUE player to earn the honor. Polster, who played for the Rapids squad in the 2010 U-17 Sum Cup, was also named to the 2011 Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Soccer All-Freshman Team, alongside Matt Taphorn of the University of Central Arkansas who played for the Rapids U-18 Development Academy. For more information on the Missouri Valley Conference awards, click here.

UNIVERSITY OF PORTLAND DEFENDER RYAN KAWULOK FINISHES CAREER ON TOP:  Former Development Academy defender Ryan Kawulok concluded his college career for the University of Portland having played and started every possible match in defense for the Pilots. He contributed a total of 10 goals throughout his career and enters the University of Portland record books tied for the most all-time games started (82) and second in most minutes played (7310).

KARSTEN HANLIN AND SHANE O’NEILL NAMED TO 2011 PLAYER WATCH LIST: Development Academy midfielder Karsten Hanlin and forward Shane O’Neill have been named to a list of 95 Players to Watch for the upcoming 2011 High School All-American Soccer Game, to be held on December 10 in Birmingham, Ala. The final team will be selected in the coming weeks, and for more information on the All-American game click here.

ABOUT THE U.S. SOCCER DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY: The U.S Soccer Development Academy is a nationwide youth development initiative, organized by the U.S. Soccer Federation, featuring 78 of the top youth teams in the country competing in a league system at both the U-18 and U-16 levels. The 78 youth programs, including one U.S. Youth National Team in each age group, are divided into 10 geographically based divisions, each of which will send a single qualifier to the national finals after the regular season concludes in late June. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy, CLICK HERE.