U.S. youth national team programs continue to train in Chula Vista

Phillip Brents

Tue May 9, 2017 11:32am

Even though the Chula Vista-United States Olympic Training Center has changed ownership to the city of Chula Vista, Olympic-type training will continue at the sprawling 155-acre site overlooking the Lower Otay Reservoir.
The venue is now officially known as the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center. It continues to serve the needs of elite athletes training for world-class competitions.
Archery and BMX as well as Paralympic programs will continue to maintain a high profile at the eastern Chula Vista site. Other short-term programs have been added.
The United States U15 boys national soccer team held its first domestic training camp of 2017 Jan. 6-13 at the center. Included was a scrimmage against the Club Tijuana Xolos de Caliente’s U-17 team.
The core group of the U.S. U15 team will eventually supply players to older age-group national teams in training, including the senior men’s national team that competes in the quadrennial FIFA World Cup.
The future looks bright in that department, according to U.S. U15 national team coach Dave Van den Bergh, who pointed out that the U.S. U20 team recently won the CONCACAF championship that includes teams representing North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The 2017 CONCACAF U15 championship is scheduled Aug. 13-19 in Bradenton, Fla.
The competition format is designed to provide valuable experience for participating teams. All 40 eligible CONCACAF member associations are expected to participate in the event.
“That’s what is in store for this group,” Van den Bergh explained. “That’s the major one for us. We’ll be facing all the countries in North and Central America. This will be a first time for this group.”
Honduras captured the inaugural CONCACAF Boys Under-15 Championship in 2013 by topping a field of 22 teams in the Cayman Islands.
The U.S. U15 national team holds several camps each year. The scrimmage against the Xolos U17 team was designed to provide “good competition” for the Americans, according to Van den Bergh.
“Wherever we have a camp, we look for local teams that can provide us with competition — that’s all the more reason to look for it,” Van den Bergh explained.
“There’s a two-year spread in ages between these teams — that can be a major difference where puberty is concerned.”
All 24 players called to the January camp by Van den Bergh currently play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Van den Bergh said he likes what he’s seen from this current group.
“The work rate has been phenomenal,” the U.S. coach said. “The boys know what they want to achieve.”
Players from 13 states attended the camp, including four players from California: defender Kenny Nielsen (Irvine), midfielders Gilbert Fuentes Perez (Tracy) and Adam Saldana (Panorama City) and forward Victor Cano (Santa Monica).
This was the fifth U.S. camp for Nielsen, who plays for the Pateadores Academy club team.
“It’s like the best experience you can have,” Nielsen explained. “You are surrounded by players who are good, who are at your level.”
His goals are to represent his country on the playing pitch at the international level.
“I’d like to stay in the national team program for as long as I can and get to the first team,” he said. “I’d love to go professional if that’s the path for me.”
Nielsen said the United States ranks among the best soccer nations in the world at the U15 level.
“Our youth teams compared to other countries are doing very well,” Nielsen explained. “We’re one of the top five teams in the world.”
The Chula Vista training complex hosted a U.S. U18 women’s national team training camp April 15-22. All 24 players attending the camp were born in 2000.
This group of players is at the start of a two-year cycle at the U18 level before transitioning to the U20 level in 2019, and will form the core of the group that will eventually attempt to qualify for the 2020 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.