Toronto FC's Under-17 academy team will be in for a big test this spring when they head down to Dallas for the final round of the Generation Adidas Cup. With the tournament taking on a new format for 2013-14 it presened a much stiffer challenge for teams than in the past but the TFC squad still managed to make it into the final nine MLS teams.
The nine remaining MLS teams will be joined in Dallas by a trio of international youth squads representing Stoke City, Chivas de Guadalajara, and Flamengo. The event kicks off on April 14th with the final set to go on the 20th making it a very busy week for teams with teams playing 5 games over the short time period.
To qualify for the final round this year Toronto FC competed in a pair of regional tournaments last year. Following the two tournaments the top three teams from the region advanced to the final round. Toronto finished second in the East Region with 12 points from 5 matches going undefeated (they did lose once on penalties) and finishing behind only the New York Red Bulls. The third team to reach the finals out of the East Region was the Philadelphia Union.
For the final TFC"s U-17 team has been drawn with Real Salt Lake, L.A. Galaxy, and Stoke City. RSL won the Central Region with 12 points from their 5 matches and are the number one seed in this group while LAG come in as the three seed having finished third in the West Region with 6 points from 4 games.
It should certainly be a good group for Toronto as they will go up against three clubs who have taken pride in the ability of their academies to produce talent for the first team. It will be interesting to see what kind of squad Stoke City send for the event as they could easily be the Wild Card in this group.
TFC will play RSL on April 14th, LAG on the 15th, and Stoke on the 17th. The group stage will then be followed by a second round which will take place on the 18th to determine what place teams will be playing for in the final round on the 20th. To reach the Championship game TFC will have to win their group or finish as the best second place team as anything else will leave them without a chance of making it to the final.
For the MLS academies that did not make the final they will still be involved in the event. Those teams will take part in the consolation round which will see them play five games each in an eight team group stage. That brings the total number of academies participating up to 17 with the New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps electing not to be involved.
In the previous version of the Generation Adidas Cup Toronto was a finalist at both the U-15 and U-17 level but reaching the final this year will be a much tougher task given the new format. For the U-17 team it will be a good way to kick off the new season and really show where they currently stand compared to the other top academies in MLS.
TFC has consistently had academy teams that do very well against other MLS teams which was often attributed to the fact that their older teams were competing in men's leagues rather than against their peers. With the teams no longer playing in the CSL it will be interesting to see if the trend of strong performances continues in this event.