U.S., college coaches mob SUM U-17 Cup

U.S. U-17 coach Cabrera among those looking for new talent

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Photo Credit: 
Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

The SUM U-17 Cup is, first and foremost, a competition for the MLS
academies and the players to test themselves against the best. But for
United States U-17 national team coach Wilmer Cabrera, the games provide each
player that is eligible to play for U.S. the opportunity to make a strong
push for a look.

“It is important for us, because 50 percent of
each team’s rosters has kids that are eligible for us, so it is very big
and very important for us,” said Cabrera. “That is why the staff is
here with me and we are checking the players. We also have some players
from residency in this tournament, so we can evaluate and see the
level of them with players in the same age.”

In addition,
several college coaches have flown in to scout the games. Though the
SUM U-17 Cup has seen a decent number of future pros, including the LA Galaxy’s Tristan Bowen and D.C. United’s Bill Hamid and Andy Najar, many of the players will forgo the pro ranks for college.

“It
is an excellent and exciting environment to see the kids,” said SMU
head coach Tim McClements. “It is a different look than an academy
event, because there are so many teams and different age groups, so it’s
an event that is a little more manageable.”

After completing
each team’s first two games in the group stage, the third and final
group game continues Monday night at Centennial Park in Friendswood. The semifinals take place Tuesday night at Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex on
the campus of the University of Houston, with the final on Thursday.

“This
is a great opportunity to prove not only to us but to the league where
our program is and where our players are,” said Dynamo Director of
Youth Development James Clarkson. “We have two academy players in our
first team, and the path is there. If they are good enough, they will
get a shot.”

For some, the pressure of getting their first
minutes in a competitive setting for a youth professional side may be
too much to bear. For others, their ability to cope with that pressure
is one of the first steps to eventually becoming a professional.

“We’ve
got players that made their debut [on Friday] for the Dynamo,” Clarkson
said. “It’s one thing playing and another when you actually stick the
uniform on and play against other MLS teams. You can’t underestimate
the pressure and the weight of the jersey sometimes.”

Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or Comments can be sent via email to dwaincapodice@gmail.com.