It is academy competition season once again, and while there is no trophy to be raised, New York Red Bulls Academy will be looking to continue their recent success at the 2023 MLS NEXT Fest in Phoenix, Arizona. Both the U15 and U17 sides will be competing in three matches over four days against some of the top competition in North America, with over 350 teams competing across all age groups.
The U15 side, led by Head Coach Simon Nee, will be circled on the schedule of every opponent they will face at MLS NEXT Fest due to the group’s recent dominance this past summer. The 15s will be entering this competition as the reigning MLS NEXT Cup champions, having earned top recognition in MLS NEXT play to end the 2022-23 season.
Heading into this season, Nee stated that the recent run of success “set the benchmark” for every player on the pitch. Expectations will be high, but many of those still in this age group have proven that they are up for the task.
At this point in the MLS NEXT regular season, the U15 side sits at second in the North Division with eight points in five matches played. While they look to continue their solid run of form, MLS NEXT Fest will allow the squad to show exactly what they are made of against top talent and raise that “benchmark”.
Nee’s side will take on three top MLS academies in this competition, starting with Chicago Fire FC Academy on Thursday, December 7th, at 4:00 p.m. MST (6:00 p.m. EST). Two days later, they will match up against LAFC Academy at 9:00 a.m. MST (11:00 a.m. EST). To wrap up their time in Phoenix, the 15s will challenge Real Salt Late Academy on December 10th at 12:00 p.m. MST (2:00 p.m. EST).
The U17 side already started their MLS NEXT Fest campaign, with Head Coach Chris Harmon leading the boys in Phoenix this week.
While the U15s have had the accolades as of late, the strength of the U17 side cannot be overlooked. There is talent on the squad that spans variety of ages, a majority of which from the ’07 and ’08 age groups.
The U17 side is currently the highest age group at New York Red Bulls Academy, which presents a unique opportunity at competitions such as MLS NEXT Fest. Harmon uses that opportunity to trickle down within the younger age groups, stating that the U17 side “Sets the standard in how we inspire and mentor the younger age groups in both how we play and how we act on and off the field”.
MLS NEXT Fest allows Harmon and his group to continue to set, and raise, that standard.
The U17s will continue their schedule today at 6:45 p.m. MST (8:45 p.m. EST) against Portland Timbers Academy. They will then close their run against FC Dallas Academy on Friday, December 10th, at 4:00 p.m. MST (6:00 p.m. EST).