The 2016 NMIFA Youth Spring League will kick off next week with two new age group competitions.
The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association-sanctioned league will have the boys U17 and U14 age groups, replacing the U18 and U15 divisions, while the biannual event will still feature the girls U15 and co-ed U12 in the competitive field and the co-ed U12 non-competitive, U10, and U8.
NMIFA staff Jersh Angeles said the slight modification in the age group was made to attract more teams and prepare U14 players for Asian Football Confederation tournaments.
This spring season, the boys U17 will have five teams with Kanoa Football Club joining Paire FC, MP United FC, Tan Holdings FC, and Matansa. Last year, only four teams (MPU, Paire, Tan Holdings, and Matansa) fielded teams in both the spring and fall seasons.
Matansa and Paire will open the hostilities in the boys U17 division next Saturday as they collide in the first game at 9am at the Oleai Sports Complex Field. Also seeing action in the first game are Tan Holdings and MP United, which will square off at 10:40am. All boys U17 games this month will be played at the Oleai pitch, while March and April matches will be moved to Hopwood Junior High School Field as the Oleai facility is expected to undergo repairs.
As for the boys U14 division, Angeles said NMIFA technical director Kiyoshi Sekiguchi wants to focus on training players in this age group as the CNMI is often invited to off-island tournaments for teams in this category.
Six teams are entered in the boys U14 with Shirley’s FC, Tan Holdings, Kanoa, Paire, MP United, and Matansa making up the list. Shirley’s and Matansa will kick off the action in the division when they duel at 1:30pm at the Koblerville Elementary School Field, while the two other games will have Tan Holdings battling Kanoa at 3pm and Paire facing MP United at 4:30pm.
In the girls U15 division, the San Antonio Middle School Field will be the venue and six teams will also vie for the spring championship. Kanoa will take on Paire in the first game at 1:30pm, while the other pairings in the opening week are Shirley’s vs MP United at 3pm and Tan Holdings vs Matansa at 4:30pm.
Meanwhile, games in the remaining age groups will all be held at the Hopwood pitch.
The co-ed U12 competitive division will have Paire playing MP United at Pitch 1, while over at Pitch 2 it will be Tan Holdings against Kanoa. Both matches will start at 1pm. Games in the co-ed U12 non-competitive will be played next from 2:20pm to 3:20pm with the following Week 1 pairings: MP United 2 vs Matansa, Tan Holdings vs Paire, and MP United 1 vs Shirley’s.
In the co-ed U10 age group, games will run from 3:30pm to 4:20pm and all eight teams will play in the opening week. The pairings are Shirley’s vs MP United 2; Kanoa vs MP United 1; Matansa vs Tan Holdings; and MP United 3 vs Paire.
In the co-ed U8 division, MP United 1 will duel Paire in the first game at 1pm, while Shirley’s and Kanoa will collide in the second match at 1:50pm. The third game set for 2:30pm will have Matansa challenging MP United. Tan Holdings completes the field and has a bye in the opening week.
This is the first time that the U12, U8, and U10 age group games will be played in one venue and NMIFA decided to make the switch instead of spreading the matches at the various school pitches to make it easier for coaches and parents to drop off/pick up players.