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Did Youth Soccer Teams Tank to Advance in Tourney?

Jason Scott

Two soccer teams raised eyebrows as they competed in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships last week, when it appeared that they played to a scoreless draw on purpose in order to advance.

Top Drawer Soccer reports that entering the final day of group play in the U18 girls' division, Carlsbad Elite and Ambassadors FC took the pitch. Carlsbad needed to win or draw to win its group, and Ambassadors needed a draw to earn a point and stave off a third team that had won its final match 4-1.

Video shows both teams languidly passing the ball, without making attempts to score. You can check out some of that video below:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of effort, the match ended in a scoreless tie. While it's unclear whether the match was rigged or the lack of effort between the two teams coordinated, both teams did advance in the tournament as a result.

Coaches from both teams issued statements following the match, each pointing to the oppressive heat, group standings and tiebreakers as reasons for their teams to take it easy.

“Both teams were through pretty much, so there was nothing to play for. Earlier in the day, there had been 18 people collapsed due to the heat,” Ambassadors coach Caleb Fortune said in his statement. “We just told our players, if the other team has the ball at the back, just don’t press them. There’s no reason to run around and kill yourselves during this event.”

“The tiebreaker is goals against,” Fortune continued. “So the only way we would’ve gone out is if we would’ve lost 4-0 and 5-0.”

Carlsbad director of coaching Michael Duggan and coach Courtney Drummond issued a joint statement.

“Playing a low-pressure style was in our best interest looking ahead to the semifinal to help preserve our players physically for the next match, having already played two 90-minute games in the extreme heat,” the Carlsbad statement read. “Given that the opponent simply had to get out of the game without losing 5-0, they clearly took a more conservative tactical approach to ensure their place in the next round.”

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