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Ohio: The Soccer State and our National Champions

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Ohio's soccer scene has been witnessing an extraordinary surge in success, both at the club level and through the development of talented professional and semi-professional players who call Ohio their home. With the remarkable achievements of Ohio clubs in national competitions this summer and the rise of exceptional individual players, the state is solidifying its position as a soccer powerhouse in the United States. In this blog post, we celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of Ohio clubs and the rise of star players who received their player development right here in The Soccer State (I’m coining that phrase for Ohio, let’s make it stick). Five clubs have their branding managers working up new logos to feature their newly earned national championship stars including Columbus United, Club Ohio, Cincinnati United Premier, Soccer Vision Academy and Canton Akron United Force.

Club Success in National Competitions:

The success of Ohio’s youth clubs in national competitions has been nothing short of remarkable, reflecting the dedication, talent, and hard work put in by players, coaches, and staff. Ohio teams have represented (and represented well) in every single National Competition being played this summer from the MLSNext to ECNL Finals, National Cup to NPL Finals and E64 to USYS National League. Ohio found their way to every event and stayed for the duration.

US Club Soccer Teams:

In US Club Soccer, 29 Ohio teams earned the opportunity to compete on the national stage through highly contested and competitive postseason play.

Ed Bernstein, Director of Great Lakes Alliance Leagues and Tournaments shared his thoughts on the success of their member clubs by saying, “Congratulations to all of our newly crowned national champions. All of the credit goes to the hard work of our member clubs and their players. It is incredible to see the development and progress soccer in Ohio has made in the 6 years since we started NPL.” Bernstein explained how US Club Soccer and their partners in Ohio have invested in the region’s soccer landscape through not only player development but coaching and referee education. “The foundation of our league is rooted in US Club Soccer’s Players First Philosophy and collaboration with and among clubs and leagues. We simply provide a player focused platform for consistently competitive league play and our member clubs do the rest.”

Three teams showcased their skills at the ECNL National Championships in Norco, California, representing the state with pride including two teams from the newly formed GLA ECNL - Regional League.

US Club Soccer NPL Finals

From the Great Lakes Alliance NPL, Premier, and MDL, twelve teams progressed through the post-season and participated in the prestigious NPL Finals in Commerce City, Colorado, proving their mettle against top competition. Manta United SC’s boys had the most staying power finishing as semi-finalists in the event for multiple age groups.

US Club Soccer National Cup

From the Ohio State Cup, 16 teams made their way to Colorado for the National Cup in Commerce City, Colorado, where four teams reached the Championship games for their age groups. On the Girl’s side Canton Akron United Force and Soccer Vision Academy emerged victorious, being crowned National Champions a first for each of their clubs

US Youth Soccer (USYS) Teams:

15 teams from Ohio made their mark in National postseason competitions. These young talents showcased their skills across regional locations and progressed to the highly competitive National Competitions in Florida at the ESPN Wild World of Sports. The commitment and passion displayed by these teams are raising the bar for youth soccer across the state.

Ohio Soccer Association’s (OSA) CEO, Gordon Henderson shared, “We are thrilled that OSA had fourteen teams at the NCS National Championships and one at the Presidents Cup National Championships. It truly speaks to the depth of competition within OSA, our leagues, and US Youth Soccer.” Henderson added, “Congratulations to Club Ohio on their national title and Columbus United, who completed the ‘double’, with both Presidents and NCS National titles. We also congratulate Sporting Columbus and Spire on getting so far – a fantastic achievement.”

Columbus United SC 2010 Girls - Two teams, two champions:

The Columbus United SC 2010 Girls emerged as champions, clinching both the National President's Cup and the National USYS Championship. The Columbus United Girls 2010 Toffees were the President Cup National Champions followed by the Columbus United Lions taking the USYS National Championship. When asked about his players’ accomplishments, Club Director Simon Davis said, “As a coach of 21 years, it has always been a dream to take a team to win a National Championship. To do this twice in the same year with the same age group, is something I could not be prouder of. These girls have worked so hard over the years to achieve this and have given each other, their families and coaches, a memory that will never be forgotten. We are so proud as a club of their achievements and now we need to set our goals for next year and go again.”

Cincinnati United Premier 2007 Boys - Elite64 National Champions:

The Cincinnati United Premier Boys (2007) demonstrated their prowess by securing the Elite64 National Championship, further establishing Ohio as a breeding ground for exceptional soccer talent.

Reece Hands, Cincinnati United Soccer Club’s Boys Elite Youth Director and coach of the Boy’s 2007 National Champions shared this:

"The entire club takes immense pride in the accomplishments of our 07 Gold team this summer. Achieving a National title is a formidable undertaking, requiring unwavering dedication over an extended duration. This remarkable achievement serves as an inspiration for aspiring players of CUP and throughout Ohio, igniting their aspirations for the future. The team's success has brought us great joy, and everyone affiliated with the club shares a profound sense of pride".

An all Ohio Final: Club Ohio vs Sporting Columbus

In the 2009 Boys division Ohio represented big on the national stage, battling through a field of tough competition from all around the nation culminating in an all Ohio final where Club Ohio came out on top and were named National Champions. What is more impressive is that a good number of these boys will be teammates next month as they move into the Crew Academy system.

The matchup between Club Ohio and Sporting Columbus was not only an Ohio vs Ohio matchup but really a backyard brawl considering these boys know each other as well as they know their own teammates. Having trained with and competed against each other considerably over the past several years. The only goal scored in the final was a screamer from 25 yards out from Lincoln Justice (newly signed Crew Academy player), when asked how it felt he replied “It was a surreal experience and there’s no other way I would’ve wanted to win a national championship for my coaches and teammates.”

Coach Ika shared his thoughts on the accomplishment saying "Champions do not become champions when they win the championship games but, in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. That’s what this team and coaching staff did. We worked so hard for this moment to win the national championship. It was an incredible journey, and I am super proud of our boys."

Individual Player Success:

Ohio's role in developing top-tier players has been evident for years, with several individuals making a significant impact on the national and international stages.

Taha Habroune of Columbus, playing with Crew 2 and the US Youth National Team, has been a standout performer. His recent selection to the MLS Next All-Star team signifies his exceptional talent and the quality of player development in Ohio.

Tessa Knapp of Bay Village is a midfielder playing for Internationals SC and is rostered to the USWNT’s U16 squad.

Allison Bledsoe Kingsbury and Rose Lavelle, proud Cincinnati natives, have achieved stardom by representing the United States at the Women's World Cup. Their journeys from youth soccer in Ohio to global recognition inspire young players across the state.

The success of Ohio clubs in national competitions and the rise of individual players who received their player development in the state are testaments to the dedication and passion for soccer in Ohio. As more clubs and players continue to excel on the national and international stages, Ohio's status as a soccer hotbed in the United States will only strengthen. The future holds tremendous promise, and the soccer community in Ohio can take immense pride in the achievements celebrated in this blog post. With the support and nurturing of young talents, Ohio is set to make an even bigger impact on the beautiful game in the years to come.

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