The Austin FC Academy Under-15 team wrapped up its season on Monday with an exciting end to their first-ever appearance in a major tournament. The U-15’s competed in the inaugural MLS NEXT Cup in Frisco, Texas, eventually losing to the Philadelphia Union in the quarterfinals in a penalty-kick shootout after winning its first two matches.
Austin entered the tournament after a successful season, earning its place in the playoffs. The team started with a 3-0 win over Barca Academy in the Round of 32 on Friday before downing New York City FC 2-0 in the Round of 16 on Saturday.
“They’re a very strong team. What stood out the most was how mature and how consistent each player played, everyone performed at a high level,” Austin Academy GM Tyson Wahl told AustinFC.com on Tuesday. “We haven’t always had that so I think everyone who participated, even the players who didn’t participate, were engaged and focused and that was a great sign for the future.”
Entering Monday’s quarterfinal, Wahl and co. knew that Philadelphia would be a tough opponent. The Union have recently overtaken FC Dallas as the top Boys Academy in the country according to SoccerWire. Philly have recently produced USMNT stars Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie and currently have 10 Homegrown Players on their roster.
The Union’s U-15 group is considered one of the best in the country, having finished near the top of their division during the regular season. On Wednesday they advanced to the U-15 final with a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution. Wahl pointed to Austin’s competition on week-to-week basis as to the reason why the Verde & Black were able to hold the Union to a 0-0 draw in regulation.
“They really contained themselves with a lot of maturity and performed at a high level. For me one takeaway is the strength of the Frontier Conference. There’s a lot of talent, a lot of great clubs around the country but I think we have a strong conference. I think us playing highly competitive games against the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas, that helps us. It’s very exciting and very beneficial to play different clubs from across the country, but our kids have been competing week-after-week in a high-level league.”
Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff was able to watch the quarterfinal and was quick to compliment the team during his Tuesday press conference.
“They’ve performed really, really well. We watched those games, we had them on streaming here so we watched the game against Philly. It’s a lot of credit to Tyson and [Austin FC Academy Technical Director Dr.] Juan Lu [Delgado], who are doing a great job with our academy. Those players are performing at a good level. We’ve had a number of those U-15’s out with us already and it was good to see them perform.”
It’s easy to forget that the Austin FC Academy has been around for less than two years.
In that short period of time, the Club has shown the ability to compete with the best in the country and while winning isn’t everything at this young age, the U-15 age group is where it starts becoming more important.
“They made a ton of progress, probably beyond my expectations,” Wahl said when asked about how the team progressed this year. “It’s been less than two years since that team played their first game in the [U.S. Soccer Development Academy] in 2019 and the team that played yesterday against Philly looked like an entirely different universe compared to where they were. They just made so much progress and I’m proud of them and excited for the future with building U-12s to U-17s.”