PHOENIX (Friday, July 14th, 2023) -- RSL AZ's 2010 MLS Next team and Strikers FC Irvine travelled to Europe from June 27 to July 3 to participate in a pair of friendly matches and an International U14 Tournament hosted by FC Augsburg.
Over the course of seven days, RSL AZ and Strikers FC Irvine played friendlies against FC Nuremberg (Germany), FC Heidenheim (Germany) and tournament matches against FC Augsburg (Germany), BSY Young Boys (Switzerland), and the Luxembourg U14 Boys National Team.
RSL AZ and Strikers FC Irvine kicked off its Germany tour with the friendlies. The first against FC Nuremberg on June 28, who currently compete in the 2. Bundesliga. RSL AZ and Strikers FC Irvine played the German squad to a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes. The following day on June 29, RSL AZ defeated FC Heidenheim. This past season, FC Heidenheim secured promotion to the Bundesliga.
With a day off between the friendly matches and the upcoming tournament hosted by FC Augsburg, RSL AZ's 2010 boys visited the Dachau Concentration Camp, Nymphenburg Palace Park, and Olimpia Park, the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Hosts FC Augsburg belongs to Real Salt Lake owner David Blitzer as part of his large football umbrella which oversees five other soccer clubs, including Crystal Palace (England), Estoril (Portugal), ADO Den Haag (the Netherlands), Alcoron (Spain), and SK Beveren (Belgium).
In the opening match of the tournament on July 1, RSL AZ played FC Augsburg and suffered a 2-1 loss. FC Augsburg, founded in 1907 are currently in their 13th season in the Bundesliga. The club has had multiple notable players come through its senior and youth teams including United States Men's National team forward Ricardo Pepi, who has scored four goals this year for the Stars and Stripes, former Real Salt Lake forward Sergio Cordova and current Major League Soccer midfielder Erik Thommy (Sporting Kansas City) and forward Kai Wagner (Philadelphia Union).
In the second match of the tournament, also played on July 1, RSL AZ defeated the Luxembourg U14 Boys National Team, 3-1. Luxembourg is a country of the rise in Europe thanks to its national youth academy. In the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League, Luxembourg just missed out on promotion to League B. In this year's qualifying for the UEFA Euro 2024 Football Championship, Luxembourg sits third in its group and within striking distance of qualifying after a string of positive results which includes a draw against Slovakia and victories over Liechtenstein and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In their final match of the tournament on July 2, RSL AZ defeated BSY Young Boys, 5-4, who are one of the top clubs in Switzerland winning the Swiss Super League title six out of the last seven seasons. The club also regularly competes in the Champions League and in 2020-21, the BSY Young Boys advanced to the Round of 16 in the Europa League. The Young Boys Academy has gone on to turn out top talent for the Swiss National Team, such as Yvon Mvogo, Michael Aelascher, Francois Affolter and Leonardo Bertone.
"As a coach, you always wonder how your team would do against international teams and Germany is one of the most successful countries when it comes to soccer both domestically and internationally. For us, to have the opportunity to play against German academies was an opportunity that we couldn't pass up," said RSL AZ MLS Next Director, Juan Fresquez. "As our team prepared and trained leading up to our trip, I wondered if we were going to be able to compete physically, technically, and tactically and the answer was yes. We were able to compete and play without any reservation and impose our style of play, the same style against MLS Next teams. There is no doubt that our league is preparing our kids to be able to compete and play against the best in the world. I am so grateful to FC Augsburg for all they did for us. We had a very professional experience."