While most BRYC Elite players practiced alongside their club teammates in preparation for the 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, Carlyn Baldwin and Kaleigh Riehl took a different approach. The Under-18 BRYC 95 Elite teammates were more than 2,300 miles away, training at the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team camp in Seattle. And just four days before the National Championships, Baldwin and Riehl learned that they were two of the 21 players selected to travel to Canada in August to play for the United States in the 2014 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
“Kaleigh and I have known each other since we were 10 years old, and our dream was to go to Nationals with our club team and also play in World Cups,” Baldwin said. “It really is a dream come true for both of us to have these opportunities….”
At the conclusion of the U.S. Under-20 camp, Baldwin and Riehl were available for the BRYC semifinal game at the National Championship, adding to an experienced BRYC team that claimed the 2012 Under-16 Girls National title and made its third straight appearance at the National Championships. The growing success in the last few years is a testament to the philosophy of BRYC and coach Larry Best.
Best said the club’s goal is to develop players up so they’re peaking when going into college. Baldwin, now at the University of Tennessee, and Riehl, now at Penn State University, have learned to handle the pressure in an intense environment at the club level, and now on the international stage. And, at 18 and 17 years old, respectively, Baldwin and Riehl are two of five U.S. players young enough to still be age-eligible for the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
The work put in by Baldwin, Riehl and their BRYC teammates has led to many opportunities and successes as a team. Following the 2012 National Championship, the side compiled back-to-back US Youth Soccer National League titles — going 6-0-1 each of the last two seasons. And although they came up short at last year’s National Championships, Riehl said the experiences at the championships have been “incredible.”
As Best said, Baldwin and Riehl’s determination to achieve their goals helped create those opportunities for exposure at the club level, which has carried over to their recent success at the National Team level. Before they could think about the World Cup, however, Riehl and Baldwin were focused on the Youth Soccer National Championships. Baldwin said it would be tough missing the group games, but she had faith in her BRYC teammates to show their talent against some difficult opponents.
“Every year we’ve been at Nationals, the competition has been phenomenal,” Baldwin said. “Winning the National Championships — that momentum would be great because it would mean so much to us. Being on that high from winning would be fantastic. No matter what the results turn out to be, playing with our team, playing against great competition — the speed of play will be fast, as well — it will help us prepare for the World Cup.”