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FC Delco U16s full of confidence heading into semifinals of MLS Next Cup

FC Delco takes on Tampa Bay United at 12:05 p.m. eastern time

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FC Delco’s 2005 MLS Next team got a much-deserved day off Tuesday after picking up three wins in four days in the Texas heat.

But tomorrow it will be back to business as they take on Tampa Bay United in a mid-day match with a trip to the MLS Next Cup U16 final on the line.

“Ever since the season began, our goal was just to win playoffs because we felt we could as a team,” Liam May said Tuesday after spending some down time with his teammates in the hotel pool. “This is a year where we really had more depth in our team than we ever had before and we just really felt confident going into the season.”

That confidence has only grown since their arrival in Frisco last week. They opened up the single-elimination tournament with a 4-0 win over Florida Rush on Friday and knocked off Beachside Soccer Club the next day by a score of 2-0.

May’s penalty kick goal and celebration made the rounds on social media.

They kept the momentum going after an off day Sunday with a 3-1 win over RSL Arizona on Monday to book a spot as one of the final four teams in the competition.

Playing what will be their fourth game in six days will be another big test, but the weather conditions do benefit a team with a deep bench.

“When we make a sub the level doesn’t drop but it actually goes up and also training every night is so competitive and you’re just sharper because of it,” May said.

Head coach Nick LaBrocca, a former MLS veteran with more than 230 career appearances, is coaching his second season with the 2005 group and was with them through the difficulty of having games and training shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said seeing their excitement and willingness to do the work has made the journey a fun one for him as a coach.

“It’s such a good culture within the team and within the club,” he said. “They do everything as a group so getting to where they are now and where they go two, three weeks, months and years from now it’s going to be a testament to the growth they’ve had together as a team.”

LaBrocca said his personal philosophy as a coach is to provide an environment where his players can take responsibility and ownership of what happens on and off the field.

“This is their team,” LaBrocca said. “This whole journey is about them.”

A win would put the FC Delco 2005’s in a position many an FC Delco team has been in before, with a chance to add to the club’s trophy case against the winner of the other semifinal between Weston FC and and a familiar foe in Players Development Club. The final will be played on Friday evening.

“We really all just believe we can win the whole thing,” May said.

The match will be streamed live on MLSSoccer.com kicking off at 12:05 p.m. A group is planning to watch the match live together at the Crossbar in Havertown.