Pasco County soccer is growing all the time, but sometimes players grow faster than their local leagues. In those instances, players often choose to play far from their homes in search of teams and coaches who can push them to the next level.
Five players from Pasco County have found a new home and success on the club level in South Tampa with RSL Florida's U-16s. Four of the five players are Land O'Lakes high school players. They are center midfielder Jake Frahm, center midfielder Zack Higgins, goalkeeper Kody Parker and midfielder Nathan Dalton. Gulf High School forward Travis Jehs inspires the attack for the RSL team.
RSL Florida soccer club wears the logo of Major League Soccer's current champions, Real Salt Lake, and participates in top level youth competition both on the state and national level.
"I'm tired of playing local teams," said Frahm. "The competitions and the league we play in here is way better because we get to play teams from all over the country and Canada. I like all my teammates here. They're pretty much my family."
The team found success in the recent USL Super Y-League championships, held at Ed Radice Sports Complex, where they won the U-15 age division. Because the Super Y-League is a summer league that ends in the fall, the kids were still able to play at the U-15 level because they are not considered to be U-16s until the start of the next season.
"These kids have played together for four seasons and I think their maturity is paying off," said Dave Parker, father of goalkeeper Kody Parker. "They're going against some of the toughest teams in the country, playing for this RSL team. We all live a mile from our local field, but we drive all the way down here to get this level of training, competition and exposure."
Now at the U-16 level, the squad has its sights set on a new prize. The Disney Showcase is set to take place Dec. 27-30 and will include only teams that are state cup level or better from across the country. With hundreds of representatives from colleges all over the country in attendance, the pressure is on to perform.
"We've been practicing a lot and trying get our team chemistry back because a lot of players here play for different schools," said Zack Higgins. "Whatever we play in, we give the same 100 percent effort. We always want to play well and if they notice us then that's great, but we're always going to do our best."
Higgins downplayed the confidence the team might have gained at the Super Y-League finals.
"It's in the past, and we try not to think too much about the past and more about what is in front of us now," Higgins said. "It was an achievement and we enjoyed it, but because we're trying to win this we won't think about it too much."