The entire west coast is getting an up close look at one of the most talented age group ever to come through the Richmond Youth Soccer Association.
Richmond United enjoyed a stellar 2010-11 campaign that included winning the B.C. Selects League U18 regular season championship. Only a heartbreaking semi-final loss in the Coastal Cup playdowns to Abbotsford prevented further success at the provincial and national levels.
The impressive run came despite three of its top players - 18-year-old Caleb Clarke and 17-yearolds Declan Rodriguez and Carlos Marquez now being part of the Whitecaps Residency Program.
United's league championship has also opened doors south of the border.
Richmond won a Showcase Tournament in Tacoma, WA back in May that was highlighted by wins over state champions from Washington and Oregon. The result earned Richmond another invitation - this time to the prestigious Santa Clara Showcase in early August. The invitational tournament is considered one of the top five of its kind in North America.
The trip to California has required an extensive fund raising campaign to generate an additional $9,000 in expenses, but the added exposure to U.S. university scouts will be invaluable.
The boys had already received interest from local university and college programs while the tournament in Tacoma also was scouted by Seattle area schools.
It all fits into the plan mapped out by Roberto Sciascia, John Gattens and Jeff Kemp who oversee the U18 program. Sciascia also happens to be RYSA's High Performance Boys Head Coach.
"At this stage of their careers, we are trying to focus on what is best we can do for the kids," explained Kemp. "The chances of any of them playing professionally is minimal but it's much more realistic to think some of them could get a scholarship. When we were down in Tacoma, there was interest for eight of our kids."
For the returning 1994s, the plan is to play in more U.S. tournament next season and perhaps establish a blueprint for other Richmond Select teams to follow.