For the first time, an Iowa Soccer member boys’ team has qualified for the US Youth Soccer (USYS) National Championships! Longtime Des Moines-area club coach Tomas Boltnar’s 15U team seized its opportunity to qualify in 2022 via USYS’s National League P.R.O. pathway.
But before the team was able to earn its way to the elite championships via the P.R.O. League competition, it had to finish in the top four of the Premier 1 Division of the USYS Midwest Conference, which it did in its 2021 season. As a 14U team, FC United Des Moines played a six-game spring 2021 schedule across the Midwest, finishing third in the group, good enough to qualify for National League’s top division in the next seasonal year as a 15U group.
P.R.O. League play consisted of road games in December 2021 and March 2022 in the 15U division. There were 8 teams in FC United Des Moines’ group and 40 overall in the 15U age division. Over its seven matches the team finished 5-1-1 averaging three goals per match, while allowing less than one per game. Opponents were from Oregon, Texas-North, Washington, Pennsylvania-East, New Jersey, and Missouri.
Boltnar shared a special highlight from this team’s journey to qualifying for Nationals: Raymond Molina scored a free kick in stoppage time against Hibernian Scholes (NJ) in a clinching match March 14 in Mesa, Ariz. And it wasn’t just any free kick! Molina’s goal tied the game and “was the goal that put us into Nationals. It was a special moment for the team among many this past season!” said Boltnar.
When asked to characterize his group, Boltnar declared “They play with heart, commitment, and they hold each other to a high standard. Training is where most of this happens. We emphasize the importance of intense training and hold players to high standards. If they don’t, they will unfortunately not be ready to contribute in the high level games on our schedule.” He added, “I enjoy the players’ excitement for the game and their willingness to lay it all on the line. I also like our attacking mentality with multiple different players having the ability to create and score.”
Boltnar’s squad features five eighth graders and 14 high school first-years from Dowling, East, Hoover, Indianola, Johnston, Marshalltown, Perry, Roosevelt, and Valley, and representing the communities of Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Grimes, Indianola, Johnston, Perry, Polk City, Tama, Urbandale, Waukee, and West Des Moines. Team members are: Maxwell Aliano, Brock Brazeau, Martin Carrillo, Jacob Chickering, Javier Flores, Prince Forfor, Angel Hernandez, Isaiah LaMark, Colin Mandernach, Luis Marquez, Allan Martinez, Jonathan Mendez, Alex Mirsky, Raymond Molina, Kadin Nguyen, Dylan O’Connor, Alexander Poitan, Kyron Pope, and Christopher Weihe. Joining head coach Boltnar are assistants Will Molina and Adam Lewis.
THE PATHWAY & NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The USYS National League P.R.O. (Player. Recruitment. Opportunity) serves as the competitive national league format in which teams compete for direct advancement to the USYS National Championships. Teams must earn their spot in the P.R.O. Division each year. “The former US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional League (MRL) and the US Youth Soccer National League are my favorite leagues to compete in” added Boltnar.
The USYS National Championship Series (NCS) is a yearlong series of competitions which culminates with the most prestigious National title in youth soccer: USYS National Champions. The 2022 National Championships are July 19-24 in Orlando.
With the spring high school season in Iowa, Boltnar and his group contends with competing soccer priorities as it prepares to represent #TeamIowa at the Midwest Regional Championships June 23-29 in Westfield, Ind. Despite the team’s direct ticket to Nationals, as the Iowa State Cup 15U Boys Champion, the squad will compete in the regional championship and could become the first Iowa boys’ team to win a Regional Championship.
“This spring we’ve been training usually three times a week and have matches on the weekends” said Boltnar. “Regionals is always a great experience and our focus is on winning Regionals while preparing for Nationals. We can’t ever overlook any opponent. At the same time our approach to win Regionals will be balanced with player development and every player will get an opportunity to earn his spot.”
During the last two seasons Boltnar noted that the team has beaten some of the top opponents in the age group from Pennsylvania, Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Minnesota (Shattuck).
WHAT IT MEANS
Boltnar has been coaching youth club teams in Iowa for many years. When asked what it meant to him to be able to lead a team the National Championships he answered, “As we know, Iowa is always overlooked at these events. I always wanted to win as a little kid, player, and coach. I always thought Iowa has enough potential to do well. However, we are a small community so it is hard to put the top kids on one team with so many clubs. I have been coaching this age group for the last four years and thought a few years back these guys are good enough to compete at the Regional and National levels.” He added, “I am proud to coach this group, I’m thankful for the players I get to work with and the support from their families.”
To learn more about Iowa Soccer/US Youth Soccer competition pathways, contact Gareth Smith, email@example.com.