Following a break for the summer, Republic FC’s youth development academy squads are back on the pitch. The club’s youth sides kick off their ninth season in American soccer’s top youth division in just over a week’s time, looking to remain a power in the Northwest Division and for a fourth consecutive appearance at the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs. Again armed with the region’s best players, Republic FC’s youth teams are primed for a strong campaign.
All Set Heading In
The club has faced off with top youth competition from around the region in preparation for the upcoming campaign, lining up against some of its Northwest Division foes for friendly exhibitions. From August 12-13, the U13’s and U14’s each took on local clubs in the Mustang Stampede Tournament, with both lifting the trophy at the end.
In the lead-up to the season, select players from the Academy have spent the summer training with the club’s first team. 13-year-old first-team signee Da’vian Kimbrough, midfielder Blake Willey, defender Chibi Ukaegbu and others have spent the eight-week offseason advancing their development with the club’s senior squad. From July into August, Willey earned a pair of selections to the matchday 18-man roster. Others have taken advantage of additional training opportunities through the club’s high potential player program throughout the summer.
The biggest match of the preseason remains for each team this weekend as each squad travels south for a big slate of exhibition matches on September 2 and 3. Each of the club’s squads will face off with their counterparts from LA Galaxy and LAFC.
What Lies Ahead
This season, the club will field youth squads in the U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, and U-17 age groups to give its young players a more seamless transition up the developmental ladder. The club’s older players will have access to additional competition opportunities to further prepare them to transition to the first team – select U-17 players and others from the club’s youth ranks will take the pitch in the USL Academy League’s U-20 division, the United Soccer League’s top youth competition. The U-20 Academy league season is already underway, with Sacramento leading the NorCal division with 15 points through six games.
The 2023/24 season is littered with big games for each squad throughout the year, including slates against San Jose Earthquakes on October 21 and April 14, and matchups against their counterparts from MLS-affiliated foes Real Salt Lake, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. Three matchups with crosstown rival Sacramento United await, including in the season-opener to kick off the club’s quest for the MLS NEXT Cup next week on September 9 and 10.
Republic FC’s coaching staff remains a key to its success. Academy Director Eder Quintanilla returns to lead the club’s U-15 side as well as those participating in USL Academy League matches. Director of Talent Identification and former Republic FC midfielder Ivan Mirkovic remains with the club for a third consecutive season as U-16 and U-17 Head Coach. He is joined by another club alumni on the staff for this season – Elliott Hord, a key member of Republic FC’s backline from 2016-2019 joined the staff and will lead the U14 team. Longtime coach Brian Willey returns to lead the U-13 squad, which he led to the best record in the nation in 2021-22. Assistant Coach David Jimenez, now in his third season with the Academy, will serve all of the club’s youth players as an assistant coach.