Following the Orlando City U17s’ MLS NEXT Southeast Division title last week, the Lions’ U15 side also received news that they have clinched their division championship this past weekend.
While the youngest Lions side did not feature in any action this weekend, other results did enough to secure first place for the U15s, who will join the U17s in MLS NEXT playoff action this weekend against opposition to be determined.
“In spite of a year that has been a challenge, we have always been giving them the importance that is required for a club who wants to grow,” said Orlando City First Team Head Coach Oscar Pareja this week. “We know all those names, from the 15s up, those guys feel like they’re part of the program, that we are the whole team and we are not separated.
“I think that is something that has an influence on the way the players start belonging to the club. And now that they’re winning, they’re winning titles and they’re important in their leagues, you’re starting to see that projection that we’d like to implant here in Orlando.”
The U15s finished the campaign 11-1-1 for 2.62 points per game, enough to put them ahead of Atlanta United for the division crown. Inter Miami’s side finished third after being handed their first and only loss of the season by Orlando City two weekends ago.
The U17s went 10-1-1 on the year, winning their division at 2.58 points per game, well ahead of second-place Charlotte FC. The U17s scored 39 goals and conceded just eight in their 12 matches.
“That is not a small detail that they have won their conferences and they have won titles already in a short time,” said Pareja. “We put our Academy in such a great place. So we are looking forward to [continue] developing the program from the bottom to the top, everybody connected with the same identity, everybody connected with the same intentions and the same game model, but most importantly just [developing] the Orlando City culture of winning.”
Pareja also believes in Orlando’s role in helping develop talent for the United States. Daryl Dike, Andrés Perea, and Chris Mueller were all included in Gregg Berhalter’s provisional roster for the Gold Cup, while Homegrown Benji Michel has seen action for the United States’ U23s this year.
“We would like to keep producing players from America, which in my opinion, I don’t know if there’s any country in the world that can have a ceiling that high and America has it,” Pareja said. “In this case in Orlando we are giving all that we have, because I think the talent is here and the coaches and the players are doing a great job.”