Some young members of the Colorado Rapids will have a unique experience this week, meeting new teammates and playing soccer in a foreign country.
A group ranging from 10-13 year-old Rapids Academy players will be joined by two players each from the club's adidas Alliance partners in North Carolina and Las Vegas to participate in the Copa Saprissa, a youth international tournament hosted by Costa Rican first-division side, Deportivo Saprissa.
"This is a great opportunity for us to bring kids of similar levels and across our whole youth development system to train together for a few days and go compete together," Brian Crookham, the Rapids' Senior Director of Youth Development, told ColoradoRapids.com this week. "The more we can have these experiences with our alliance partners the closer we're going to be to all being on the same page developmentally."
The Rapids' relationship with the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club was forged in 2010 while the club recently joined with the North Meck Soccer Club of North Carolina to create the Carolina Rapids Soccer Club. Crookham and his staff are in constant communication with Carolina director Kevin Flanigan and Danny Stone in Las Vegas, who helped identify the partner club's player representatives.
"We've been able to see these kids in person through scouting when we've been there in those markets," Crookham said. "It's a combination of them doing a good job every day in their own clubs and then certainly us validating that when we're able to go see them in person."
In February the Rapids announced that starting in the fall of 2013, the club will debut an Under-14 Development Academy Team to join the U-16s and U-18s in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The new U-14 team will be coached by Gary Evans, the club's Director of Coaching who is also coaching the group in Costa Rica.
"This experience will be good preparation for kids that will be considered for future Academy U-14s," Crookham said. "Next year, the potential for some of these player to be in that Development Academy group is pretty high."
The players trained at Dick's Sporting Goods Park this week before departing for San Jose, Costa Rica on Thursday. They'll train on Friday and then play five games over the next week against academy sides of top clubs, starting on Saturday against Deportivo Saprissa's U-13s.
"We were fortunate that Saprissa has given us this invite," Crookham added. "And that's part of it - finding an age appropriate, right-level event and partnering with people that we trust internationally to help each other get to their goals in youth development."
Following the opener the Rapids' U-13 selection is also scheduled to play Belén on Monday, Escazuceña on June 19, Uruguay's U-13s on June 21, and Saprissa again on June 23.
Colorado Rapids Under-13 Selection for 2013 Copa Saprissa:
Cade Austin, Tristan Austin, Marko Babiak, Cal Brynestad, Hank Dalle Molle, Connor Doolan, Paul Eliott, Rhone Ellis, Dani Haddad, Marco Rios, Toby Rubenfeld, Jack Thibodeaux, Cwjmem (Max) Vang, Juan Estrada (DLVSC), Hayden LeRoy (Carolina), Jake McMillen (Carolina), Vincent Turk (DLVSC)