DUNBAR, W.Va. - The final day of play in the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships brought about a scenario that had never been seen before within the region.
On Wednesday, the U-16 boys division featured a situation in which a third place game had to be added to determine who would represent the Eastern Region in the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
That's because both teams advancing to the finals in the division - Maryland's Baltimore Celtic Premier (Md.) and Pennsylvania-West's Beadling 2003 South Red - had already qualified for nationals through the USYS National League.
That meant New York-West's Syracuse Development Academy and New Jersey's TSF Academy 03B Blue stuck around for one more day to play a match that determined who would move on to the nationals in Overland Park, Kansas, from July 22-28.
In the end, Syracuse Development Academy used a three-goal spurt in an eight-minute stretch to propel a 6-1 win that got them the nod for nationals, ending a wild run that featured lots of soccer.
"It's six matches in seven days," SDA coach Shannon Colton said. "I told our boys that we have the best record here."
Brad Roos, Chair of the US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships Committee, said it was the first time the scenario had ever presented itself due to a change in format for the U-16 boys division this year.
The U-16 boys were one of four divisions that went to 20 teams in 2019 - an increase from the previous number of 16. With 16 teams, the breakdown was four groups of four and the group winners advanced to semifinals and then a final.
However, the increase to 20 teams added a fifth group of four teams and meant that an extra championship round was needed to accommodate five group winners and three wild-card qualifiers that were put in the mix.
"In the 16 boys, all the coaches thanked us for doing so because there are so many good teams, you could get eight out of 20 teams to the knockout round," Roos said. "That part has been really positive."
The irony of the situation is that neither Beadling, nor Baltimore Celtic - both finals participants - would have advanced to the championship rounds had there been 16 teams instead of 20. Both lost in pool play and finished as runners-up in their respective pools.
Instead, both battled for the Eastern Regional championship, which Beadling won 5-2.
Despite the change in format going against Colton's SDA team, who lost to Beadling in the semifinals, Colton said the change in format is a big boost for the future and was the correct decision by USYS and the Eastern Region.
"It's unique this year having the quarterfinals," Colton said. "Otherwise, Beadling and Celtic wouldn't even have been playing They would've been out. But it was nice that they added quarterfinals. We talked about doing it last year because teams got knocked out early that were the better teams. I like the 20-team because if someone like us and Celtic get in the same bracket, we should both get out and advance. We're each too good not to get out."
As for the USYS National Championships, the Eastern Region now has three of the eight contenders in the tournament with Beadling and Baltimore Celtic representing the National League and SDA representing the region.
Colton said any one of them could come away from Overland Park, Kansas, with a title.
"I believe we are the best three teams in the country - us, Beadling and Celtic - and I hope one of us goes down there and wins a National Championship," Colton said. "The biggest thing for us is now, we get the chance to go to nationals because there are eight teams there and we know we're good enough to win it."