The start of the Spring / Summer UPSL season is near, and here’s one observer’s preview on how some of the best UPSL teams in SoCal stack up. My Ranking takes each club’s last season form into account. New to the “Pro Premier Division” is Lionside FC, in addition to Panamerican FC and “Newcastle United,” of Upland, CA. But Lionside went on a tear all throughout their first season and has all the momentum going into this new season in a new division. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare with last season’s best finishers.
Top 10 Preview
California United FC II is the defending UPSL Champion (rebranded from OC Invicta), having gone undefeated last season against some stiff competition in the Western Premier, and that’s saying something, given that this division has three entrants qualified to the 2018 US Open Cup (four counting Orange County FC that’ll enter through the NPSL channel). Cal United has some pros on their squad and was in anticipation of playing in a professional league in 2018.
Santa Ana Winds FC had a turnaround season in 2017, having qualified to the 2018 US Open Cup and having made the UPSL National Championship final. Winds FC had one of the top offenses in the Western Premier, and their recent form has carried over into 2018 UPSL preaseaon play. Winds FC is cup tied in two tournaments, the Cal South State Cup and the Open Cup.
La Máquina did not have the season people are used to seeing from them, but they remain one of the toughest clubs in SoCal. With the 2018 tournament, they’ve now qualified to three consecutive US Open Cups. Further:
Combining qualification and Open Cup proper, all time, La Máquina is a whopping 10 and 2 and has outscored the opposition 31 to 11. It’s only two losses were flukes, arguably (a controversial LA Galaxy loss in 2016 & Fresno Fuego in 2017). #USOC2018@usopencup@opencup#UPSL
— The Angeltown Post (@AngeltownPost) November 20, 2017
FC Santa Clarita Storm finished a respectable 5th place in the Western Premier, ahead of usual standout, LA Wolves, and only behind powerhouses La Máquina, Invicta, OCFC and Winds FC.
LA Wolves saw a drop in their usual form, due to a number of their best players, and coach Eric Wynalda, leaving to form the OC Invicta project (now Cal United FC II), that was intended to keep some of the eventual Cal United first team players active. LA Wolves, however, qualified to their third-consecutive US Open Cup with the 2018 version, demonstrating that their quality is still intact.
Sporting San Fernando finished 7th right under LA Wolves, and ahead of some decent clubs in the San Diego Zest FC 2, Strikers South Coast, and San Fernando Valley Scorpions.
Lionside FC tore up the UPSL Championship Division, going undefeated in their debut season, demonstrating that they need the types of challenges brought by the higher-ups in the UPSL Western Premier. It would come as no surprise to this writer if they perform higher than this ranking indicates.
San Diego Premier Pros replace San Diego Zest FC 2. SD Premier Pros are an adult branch of the Premier Soccer Academy San Diego, a youth club. The addition of an adult team into their overall club system is a similar practice to what other youth clubs are doing now. ASC San Diego, for example, now have their adult ASC San Diego “Pros” in the NPSL, and the LA Galaxy OC added an adult squad into the UPSL. Similar to all of these cases is that of La Máquina, that started as an adult branch of FC Golden State Orange County, for the purpose of competing in the UPSL.
San Fernando Valley Scorpions rounded out the top 10 in the last UPSL season. The prior season, Scorpions finished 7th ahead of Santa Ana Winds.
LA Galaxy Orange County are a rebrand of PSC Soccer Academy, and an extension of the LA Galaxy OC youth club, which is an “alliance club” of the LA Galaxy academy. Their appearance in this top 10 is made possible because of the absence of former UPSL Champion Strikers FC South Coast, which finished an uncommonly 9th last season and did not return for the 2018 Spring season.