As the 2014 season schedules come together, the WPSL will be bringing you a preview of the action to come in each unique division. First up: New England.
The season opens in the Northeast on Saturday, May 17th, when Boston Aztec face Seacoast United Phantoms in Portsmouth, NH, and last year’s regional champions New England Mutiny host Seacoast United Mariners. Then, it’s a Breakers battle at Harvard Stadium when WPSL veterans Boston Breakers College Academy face the newly-formed Breakers Reserves on Sunday, May 18th.
The New England Mutiny, celebrating both its 2013 East Championship title and its 15th year in existence, will be a dangerous force this season. The team has already confirmed U.S. U-20 star Morgan Andrews as a key player in the upcoming season, but the team’s preliminary roster, released in March, boasts a depth of talent, including a core 11 returning players and a few promising newcomers from American International College, the local (though nationally-ranked) NCAA DII team.
Yet despite this success, Mutiny Team Owner Joe Ferrara is ready to face some stiff competition in what he calls “the WPSL ‘Group of Death.’” The Mutiny’s first challenger, the Seacoast United Mariners of Portland, ME, landed at the lower end of the table in their inaugural season last year, but with that first year of experience under their belts they will certainly step up the opposition in 2014.
The Mariners and the Phantoms (Portsmouth, NH) both stem from the highly competitive Seacoast United Soccer Club, which has grown exponentially since 1992 to support over 5,000 competitive youth players in the Northeast. Though the Mariners are relative newcomers, the Phantoms will be entering their fourth season in the WPSL, ready to face the second-oldest WPSL team in New England, Boston Aztec, on opening weekend.
The Aztec has developed some dynamic longstanding rivalries since its entrance into the WPSL way back in 2005. During the years of the WPS (2009-2011), Boston Aztec became the official reserve team of the professional Boston Breakers, and became WPSL National Champions in 2010. Last year they narrowly missed playoff qualification, finishing just one point behind the Breakers College Academy team. This year, with the NWSL’s Boston Breakers establishing an official reserve team under the Breakers umbrella, the Aztec is proving its independence, and has already signed the best of its extensive youth program alumni and current elite youth players, in addition to other local talent.
Across town, Boston’s professional women’s soccer team, the Boston Breakers, will build upon the successes of both its inaugural NWSL season and its spearhead College Academy Program in 2013, to introduce the Boston Breakers Reserves. The Reserves are the final piece of the Breakers’ professional development pyramid, and will train with the full Breakers NWSL team while competing in the WPSL this summer, confirms General Manager Lee Billiard. “With the World Cup and the Olympics coming up, this reserve team will be critical for the professional league,” says WPSL League Commissioner Jerry Zanelli. But that doesn’t mean we can predict who will come out on top this season—the College Academy proved highly competitive last year, and will only continue to grow as it garners interest and attracts players from colleges not just in the Northeast, but nationwide.
All six teams in the New England Division have something to prove this season, and fans in the area are guaranteed an action-packed summer.
View the full New England schedule here.