The Philadelphia Union U17s will embark on their hunt toward the MLS NEXT Cup trophy on Sunday, June 18 at 12 p.m. against the Portland Timbers in Frisco, Texas. The team has the chance to cap off a historic year of exceptional play by adding yet another trophy to its case. But as the first game of the tournament quickly approaches, the squad’s focus is locked on the opponent ahead.
Flashback to last summer – the U17s defeated Columbus Crew in an exciting one goal win to claim the MLS NEXT Cup. Then, two months ago in April, the team rallied toward another championship, earning the Generation adidas Cup with a 1-0 win against FC Dallas.
During MLS NEXT regular season play, the U17s finished with a 18-4-1 record highlighted by a MLS NEXT Cup Playoff clinching game against the New York Red Bulls. The squad is 29-6-4 across all competitions with 106 goals scored and 19 clean sheets. The team is on a hot streak as of late, but despite their recent dominance, Head Coach Tobias Nubbemeyer says the team’s attention lies only on the game in front of them.
“We want to get rid of the pressure, right? Because obviously, we already won,” said Nubbemeyer. “So for us, it would be a gift. An extra. We just want to have fun and enjoy it. It will be my last tournament at the cup. So it's more about putting it all out there.”
The Union will first take on the Portland Timbers, a team that earned its spot in the MLS NEXT Cup playoffs by winning their group at MLS NEXT Flex. The Timbers finished fifth in league play in the West Division with a 5-7-2 overall record. The Union finished second in the U17 East (North) Division.
The team’s path is set – if Sunday’s game results in a victory over the Timbers, the Union will move on to face the winner of the LA Galaxy vs. New York City FC contest.
“We’re looking from game to game and just enjoying the next one, because every game can be the last one. So, just play as hard as you can and try not to look at the trophy, instead, looking at the next game,” Nubbemeyer said.
Nubbemeyer has been the Philadelphia Union’s U17 Head Coach since July 2019. MLS Next Cup Playoffs will be his last tournament with the team, as he will soon begin a new role at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim as their U19 Head Coach. Ahead of his final outing at the helm of the team, Nubbemeyer reflected on the strengths of his U-17 roster, citing three words that characterize the team’s identity.
“The mentality, the fight, and the fitness,” he said.