It's been awhile since we've checked in with the Orlando City Youth Soccer (OCYS) program and development academy to see what's up. This owes mainly to the fact that our youth/development writers have come and gone like drummers in Spinal Tap or Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers at Hogwarts.
There's a lot to talk about though, so let's get to it.
Orlando City U-12 Boys Capture Florida Cup
The Lions' U-12 boys' Pro Academy team took home first place in the Florida Cup -- the equivalent of Florida Youth Soccer Association's (FYSA) State Cup last weekend. Finishing as the state's top U-12 boys team caps a big season for coach Craig Melton's side, which beat Atletico Madrid's U-12 team earlier this season to capture the Iber Cup over on the Gulf Coast, with games in Bradenton and Sarasota.
The Pro Academy is an integral part of the Orlando City structure, yielding direct access to City's elite U.S. Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) program. Orlando City USSDA teams are fully funded -- with the Club providing free registration, travel fees and uniforms.
In addition to the U-12 team's success, the Orlando City Youth Soccer (OCYS) U-14 Purple team advanced to the Florida Cup finals, finishing in second place.
U-13 Boys Win Florida Premier League Title
Orlando City's U-13 Pro Academy team capped a successful season that began back in August by finishing undefeated and winning the Florida Premier League (FPL). In doing so, U-13 Pro Academy Coach Greg Brick's squad qualified for the National Premier League Finals in July.
"The results from this past weekend is another testament to our focus on youth development at Orlando City," said Brick in a club press release. "Not only were our teams able to produce victories against top teams, but they were active in trying to play the Orlando City style of play, and we're very pleased with their performances this season."
Mitchell Joins Orlando City's ECNL Staff
City announced yesterday that former English Premier League coach Sam Mitchell has joined the Lions' Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) program. Mitchell spent five seasons as a coach with Watford FC in England, mainly working with the club's youth development programs. He is a Football Association qualified coach educator and qualified teacher.
The ECNL is the nation's top league for young women, ages 15-18. Established in 2009, the system provides the highest level of competition and the best developmental environment for American female youth soccer players. It also helps identify and develop players for U.S. Soccer's national teams.
"We're thrilled to bring in a coach of Sam's caliber," said OCYS Girls' Academy Director Alan Hough. "Sam will bring a great range of experience to the Orlando City ECNL coaching staff, providing a background in youth soccer development at a boy's academy, coaching ECNL teams, a professional team and most recently a top Division II (Rollins College) program."
Last fall, Mitchell joined Rollins College's women's soccer team as an assistant coach, helping lead the Tars to the first National Championship final in the program's history. Rollins finished as national runners up and ranked No. 2 in the country.
As a player, Mitchell spent five seasons in England's semi-professional leagues, featuring for London Colney FC and Tring Athletic after a successful career at the collegiate level. Mitchell moved to the United States in 2012 and continued coaching at the youth development level, joining VSI West Florida Flames' Boy's NPL teams and the Girls' ECNL program. While with that program, he earned his USSF "B" license and a distinction in his NSCAA Advanced National Diploma.
Getting quality coaches like Mitchell is a good way to build a top program, which City is, and has been, doing.
U-23 Lions Ready to Roar
Orlando City's U-23 PDL season is set to kick off Saturday on the road against Floridians FC. The team will play 14 PDL matches through July 18, playing home games at Seminole Soccer Complex. The first home match takes place at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 23 against FC Miami City Champions. If you want to see the next potential Orlando City Homegrown Players, follow the U-23 squad.
Last year, the team reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup by beating the USL's Charleston Battery, before bowing out to the Portland Timbers. Orlando City's U-23 team has produced four first-team players, including former University of Central Florida star Romario Williams, who was selected third overall by the Montreal Impact in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.
The U-23 Lions, coached by Darren Powell, Jeff Negalha and Anthony Pulis, play in the PDL's Southeast Division in the Southern Conference. The division consists of seven teams from Florida. In addition to those listed above, Orlando City is competing against Palm Beach Suns FC, IMG Academy Bradenton, Ocala Stampede, and SW Florida Adrenaline.
Here's the full schedule: