With the Development Academy spring schedule about to kick into a high gear, there is going to be a tight race in the U18 Atlantic Division.
McLean Youth Soccer is currently top of the table with 26 points and an undefeated record of 8-0-2, and will look to hold off the challenge of CASL, Charlotte Soccer Academy, NC Fusion and North Meck SC, who all begin a heavy slate of action in the next two weeks.
Of course, the coaches themselves are fairly nonplussed about how the schedule breaks down in their particular division.
"There's not too much we can do about that," CASL Chelsea U18 Coach Carlos Somoano told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "We're kind of where we are, they're where they are, they're kind of towards the end of their season, we feel like we just got started."
Right now, that quartet of North Carolina-based teams are preparing to begin the chase, as the Virginia pair of McLean and Richmond Kickers currently sit first and second at the top of the division.
The Kickers, sitting on 18 points with a record of 6-6, finished the February part of its schedule with two straight wins, and hope to maintain sight of a playoffs spot.
But regardless of that, they've been pleased with how things have gone this year.
"We've had gradual improvement overall, certainly by the results they've had a lot more success on the field and the main reason for that is we played so much better over the last three months," assistant coach Leigh Cowlishaw told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "I think it has a lot to do with improved confidence from the team, understanding the style of play we've committed to, and players who've stepped up and played better soccer."
Holding off the challenge from the four very talented NC teams won't be easy, especially since the Virginia clubs won't play again until June. CASL, who won the division last year, boast UNC-bound talents like Alex Olofson and Nick Williams, while also relying on players like McAmos Paye (heading to Creighton) and Joaquin Del Rosario (NC State).
But that won't stop the NC Fusion, North Meck or Charlotte from throwing in the towel. The Fusion, who lost defender Jonathan Campbell to early enrollment at UNC, is hoping to live up to lofty expectations.
"Our emphasis is on the performances, the results are important but at the same time, they're not everything," head coach Marc Nicholls told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "We certainly expect this team is a team that should be in the playoffs and right now I think you'd have to say that we're on the bubble for that."
One thing is for sure as the chase heats up - when any of the two teams in North Carolina clash, it's going to be a spectacle, especially with what's at stake in the standings.
"Those games are great, very competitive, one game over the weekend so all of your preparation can do into that one challenge," Nicholls said of the Carolina matches. "We're able to scout each other a little bit and plan accordingly. I think they are the games players and the coaches look forward to the most, but in the right spirit."
Regardless of how those games shake out, McLean will have a final chance to seal the top spot, with four games scheduled for June, all at home against the four teams from North Carolina.