Two of Cincinnati’s premier soccer clubs — Kings Hammer and Cincinnati United Premier — are both headed back to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships July 21-26 in Tulsa, Okla., where both will attempt to bring a national championship back to the Queen City.
Cincinnati United Premier and Kings Hammer have both been busy in July over the last five years on the pitch against the nation’s high-end soccer competition.
This year, Cincinnati United, whose highest-level teams in each age group are referred to as CUP, qualified two boys’ teams and one girls’ team to nationals. Kings Hammer, who’s top teams are known as KHA, advanced a pair of girls’ teams to nationals.
Traveling to Oklahoma for CUP are the U14 girls, coached by Bobby Puppione and Kim and Rob Scheper; U14 boys, coached by John Michael Hayden and U18 boys, coached by Terry Nicholl. KHA is sending its U16 girls, coached by Chris Black, and U17 girls, coached by Tiffany Roberts.
Puppione, who’s also the Cincinnati United girls’ director of coaching, said CUP’s U18 boys were a national semifinalist a year ago, and they’ve qualified to nationals in three of the last four years.
At nationals, there are eight teams remaining in each age group, that then split into subgroups of four. Those four teams all play each other, and the top two from each group advance to the semifinals.
“They’re excited to be representing our city, state and region,” said Puppione. “It’s very impressive the amount of quality soccer players this city continues to produce. The entire state has really embraced the game.”
KHA’s U17 won a regional championship to advance to nationals, while its U16 team qualified by finishing top-two in the National League.
Roberts, who’s the girls’ executive director and also coaches three teams for Kings Hammer, said the KHA teams are both nervous and excited. KHA has a chance to avenge some losses at nationals.
“In some cases, they’re excited to get a second chance at some teams,” Roberts said. “They know how tough the level of competition is going to be.”
In recent years, Cincinnati teams have proven they can compete on the national soccer stage. Roberts, who’s been coaching in Cincinnati for the last six years, said the local talent has become more organized, which has produced a higher level of play.
“Cincinnati soccer in the last five years has taken a really good step,” Roberts said.
CUP GU14: Becky Dean, Bridget Logan, Megan Oduyoye, Brittany Duncan, Anna Podojil, Kennidy Belle, Janie Reiring, Aliyah El-Naggar, Paige Elliott, Adrianna Brewer, Kate Larbes, Jordyn Rhodes, Eva Kiper, Katelynn Setters, Olivia Scheper and Haley Miller.
CUP BU14: Ryan Burig, Connor Andrews, Luke Birdsong, Connor Wilson, Ty Kirrsin, Michael Noll, Luke Rockwood, Tony Buechly, Andrew Smith, Skyler Meyer, John Grinstead, Ben Hegge, Isaac Brooks, Brennan Callow, Riley Shanks, Nick Krueger, Samuel Kunkemoeller and Nathan Deimling.
KHA U16: Abby Brown, Ally Brown, Payton Black, Sidney Spivey, Mayson Tranter, Harper Lamb, Jenna Prathapa, Sophie Gorman, Hannah Poe, Maria Schilling, Ellie Vandergriff, Caitlyn Grooms, Caroline Walton, Christin Sherrard, Sarah Schuh, Jessica DeJesus and Mikayla Jung.
KHA U17: Camille Williams, Elizabeth Greenwell, Caroline Mink, Mary Alf, Michelle Washburn, Haley Moses, Peyton Cook, Carly Noel, Alexandra Carrier, Alex Powell, Jamiera Lunsford, Haley Jordahl, Hannah Fischer, Meredith Glover, Melanie Langan, Anna Richards, Samantha Damante and Toni Bizzarro.
CUP U18: Drew Grisham, Logan Wiedmann, Brennon Shanks, Gary Zhao, Daniel Bundschuh, Jan Max Pochobradsky, Evan Cusmano, Bryce Curran, Nate Gibson, William Cohen, Brendan Jones, Dan Schleitweiler, Mohammed Elmardi, Luke Treadway, Christian Lytle, Alex Besl, JJ Iroh, David Jeffries and Peter Cinibulk.