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Academy Update: 32 Orlando City Youth Players Commit on National Signing Day

Orlando City Youth System sends dozens of young men and women into the ranks of collegiate athletics on National Signing Day.

Orlando City SC

The state of Florida is no stranger to the celebration known as National Signing Day. Consistently mined for collegiate talent, the press conferences of recruits from the Sunshine State have made the front pages of newspapers and have been the lead story on many sports updates for years.

While many eyes tend to focus on the recruits joining NCAA football programs, athletes from the Orlando City SC youth and academy system have found tremendous success in graduating from the youth system and moving on to play for college programs.

Last year, 41 athletes made the move to the university and college level from Orlando City Youth Soccer. This year, another 32 declared their intentions to continue their playing careers at the next level -- an outstanding achievement for these athletes and a positive reflection on the programs they have spent the last few years with, honing their talents.

Acceptance into college is rarely a guarantee. Trying to make it on to a collegiate athletic squad is even more difficult. National Signing Day is a real milestone in the lives of these young men and women. Sometimes the drive and the dreams of young athletes can make it difficult to fully comprehend the significance of the moment, but according to OCYS Girls Academy and ECNL director Alan Hough, many of these athletes understand just what a special day it was.

"For the majority of our players, college soccer is the dream. That's where they want to go," said Hough

With each graduating class, the reputation of Orlando City has the potential to grow stronger and the club's presence to extend even further. While Florida is reaping the majority of the benefit from this crop of recruits, the Lions leaving the youth system will be venturing off to represent Orlando City in 10 other states. Aside from the 10 recruits remaining in Florida, North Carolina will be receiving the highest concentration of OCYS talent, with six athletes heading to the Tar Heel State.

The Orlando City Youth System is made stronger by the quality of the athletes and the character of the individuals that come through the programs, but the influence these athletes have on the program does not end at graduation. The talent, sacrifice and determination that carried them through this program will be reflected in their success at the next level.

Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins said this group of graduating athletes were, "great kids who worked very, very hard for this day. I'm delighted for them...Great to see them representing Orlando City across the colleges of this country."

National Signing Day was the realization of a dream for many of these athletes. For others, it may be just the next step in a longer journey, culminating in becoming a professional athlete. Either way, there is no denying this class for what it is.

Great athletes. Great young men and women.

Here is the full list of OCYS players and their destination schools:

Dennis Zapata

Florida Gulf Coast University

Chandler Maynes & Jake Stone

University of South Florida

Gorka Aperribay

University of Central Florida

Daniel O'Brien

Stetson University

Christen Barney

Jacksonville University

Kasey Rakauskas

Florida Southern College

Emily Sterns

Nova Southeastern University

Lindsey Pinder

Palm Beach Atlantic University

Sarah Combs

Lynn University

Nicholas O'Callaghan & Jaiden Fortune

Elon University

Aiden Wixted

North Carolina State University

Brandon Scherr

Wingate University

Riley Sanders

Campbell University

Erica Belforti

UNC-Asheville

Rebecca Brown & Kerry Skinner

University of West Georgia

Jensen Meaux

Brenau University

Amanda Raleigh

University of South Carolina Upstate

Brianna Palmer

Winthrop University

Ryenne Dietrick

Johns Hopkins University

Evelyn Neidert

Towson University

Lynsey Kelly

Troy University

Leah Krinker

Pace University

Hannah Menard

Vanderbilt University

Charles Lynch

Rose Hulman Institute of Technology

Jessica Andrade

Villanova University

Regan Kowalski

Lyon University

Alison Backel, Brook Ina, Aubrey Perry, Gabriela Caliendo, Rachel Lemay, Gabriela Capoza, & Sabrina Cordona

Undeclared