PREVIEW: U.S. ARMY BRACKET – 2018 PEPSICO SHOWDOWN BOYS (CHICAGO)

By Bob Narang

The 16th Annual PepsiCo Showdown Boys is a high school sporting event unlike any other, featuring 64 high schools, 2,000 boys soccer players, more than 175 communities and nearly 130 games in a 14-day span.

And to top it off, all of those schools and players are at Inwood Soccer Complex in Joliet on back-to-back Saturdays – starting with 32 games on Sept. 8 for Opening Day – and finishing with a massive celebration on Sept. 23 at Robert Morris University’s Sports Complex in Arlington Heights for Championship Sunday.

This fall, PepsiCo Showdown boys players also will make a difference in the lives of 64 children from military families. Each event, the PepsiCo Showdown brackets are named after a local charity/nonprofit to bring awareness, engagement and exposure to that cause. This time, however, the brackets are named after the U.S. Armed Forces: Army, Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard.

Let’s meet the U.S. ARMY BACKET OF THE 2018 PEPSICO SHOWDOWN BOYS (CHICAGO):

Miss the LIVE seeding show? CLICK HERE to see WGN-TV.com coverage. 

The teams, the seeds: Morton (1), Solorio (2), Wheaton Academy (3), Lyons (4), Metea Valley (5), Crystal Lake South (6), Saint Patrick (7), Streamwood (8), Addison Trail (9), Minooka (10), Saint Ignatius (11), Wheaton North (12), Washington (13), Lane (14), Hoffman Estates (15) and Plainfield Central (16). CLICK HERE to see the bracket.

Top players: Minooka midfielder Frank Thompson; Metea Valley midfielder Evan Lang and forward James Lynch; Streamwood midfielder Jose Ibarra; Washington midfielder Felipe Ramirez; Saint Patrick forward Luis  Angel Saucedo; Morton forwards Adrian Barrera and Jesus Perez; Saint Ignatius midfielder Danny Fernandez; Addison Trail forward Melvin Mora; Solorio midfielders Jonathan Vazquez and Omar Salgado; and Wheaton Academy midfielders Seamus Kilgallon and Jack Kilgallon.

Top teams: Naturally, Morton tops the list. The Mustangs, which entered the season undefeated in 50 of their last 53 matches, welcome back a bevy of next-level players. Senior forward Adrian Barrera led the Mustangs with 22 goals and 13 assists last season, including a game-winning goal in a 3-2 win over Lyons to hand Morton its third straight sectional title. With 85 players in its program, Solorio, which captured the Class 2A state championship last season, is a deep program flush with talent on every level.

“We have an extremely talented team, but lost some key members from the state championship team,” Solorio coach Adrian Calleros said. “But we are replacing them with a group that won the JV CPS championship. The key to our success is everybody figuring out their role on the team.”

Dark horse team: Crystal Lake South. Heading into seeding, the Gators owned a 4-0-1 record through Aug. 31. Freshman forward Tom Coughlin has been a pleasant surprise, joining his senior brother, Ryan Coughlin, as mainstays in the lineup. The Gators are coming off a 12-11-2 season that was highlighted by a Class 3A regional title. Seven players are playing in their third varsity season, according to coach Brian Allen. Senior defender Nick Langdon and junior forward Alex Canfield are two of the main leaders.

Interesting note: Lyons enters the 2018 tourney with an entirely new team. The Lions graduated their entire starting unit plus nearly half of their bench from last season’s team. In all, the Lions graduated 17 players. The Lions have a history of overcoming heavy losses, winning five consecutive regional championships and 14 in the last 16 seasons.

Did you know: Streamwood captured the Barrington Classic by beating Mt. Carmel 1-0. The Sabres scored 12 goals in the tourney. At 6-foot-4, sophomore defender Jose Ibarra is one of the tallest players in the PepsiCo Showdown. Alex Chavez and Bryan Mora are among 10 returnees from last season’s Class 3A sectional finalist.

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