There are tough districts in boys soccer and then there is Class 5A, District 7.
"There isn't a team that you hope you'll be playing," Bloomingdale coach Troy Smith said. "Anyone in this district can beat anyone in any match."
And that's what will make this week's 5A-7 matchups so much fun for area soccer fans. With realignment this year, last season's district (6A-8) returned — minus Brandon — but with the added punch of Riverview, Newsome and Durant. Last year, the Wolves won the 6A-8 championship and Durant, the district runner-up, reached the state finals.
"Anyone can win any match," Newsome coach Neil Rickmers said. "This is going to be one wild week."
Wharton and Bloomingdale were the most successful during the district slate. The Wildcats went undefeated while the Bulls' lone loss was to Wharton. But even down to seventh-seeded Plant, no team is considered a pushover.
"It's definitely the toughest district in the county," Rickmers said. "And probably in the state."
Bloomingdale (12-2-2 as of press time) had its season end in heartbreaking fashion last year when the Bulls, runners up in 6A-8 to Wharton, lost 1-0 in overtime against Countryside in the region quarterfinals.
"We have a good group returning this year," Smith said. "We knew this new district was going to be difficult but the team has responded well."
The Bulls, who play three strikers up top, have a versatile attack led by Matt Firestine (18 goals), Dalian Leigh (14 goals) and freshman Allen Lewis (12 goals). The Bulls' senior-laden backline of Nick Buccieri, Carlos Tobar and Garrett Cohen provide a stout wall in front of keeper Austin Spagnola.
"Everything starts with Austin in the back," Smith said. "He's come through in some tough spots this year."