Sunday night, USL, the third tier of American soccer, provides the digestif to a weekend absolutely jammed with football. This year’s USL final sees New York Red Bulls II host Swope Park Rangers, Sporting Kansas City’s affiliate club, in a match that promises to give us a glimpse at players looking to break into MLS next year. The game at Red Bull Arena [Sunday at 8 p.m. ET] will be broadcast live on ESPNU and the WatchESPN app. It will be Simulcast on Sirius XM channel 85. We asked the league’s president, Jake Edwards, for three storylines to watch out for.
1. NYRB II’s “Haitian Messi” - 19-year-old Derrick Etienne Jr. is a Virginia-born, New Jersey-raised, Haitian youth national team midfielder who came in at No. 3 on USL’s “20 Under 20” list this year. Look for him and 17-year-old U.S. U-20 prospect Tyler Adams (No. 5 on USL’s “20 Under 20” list) to partner in the Red Bulls II midfield.
2. Swope Park’s Canadian Connection – GFOPs North of The Border and denim on denim clad neutrals might look to adopt Swope Park for this match. USL Coach of the Year finalist Marc Dos Santos, leading scorer Mark Anthony Gonzalez, Defender of the Year Finalist Amer Didic, and versatile midfielder Tyler Pasher are all Canadian. They lead a SPR side that comes into the final with eight straight wins.
3. Key Matchup – Brandon Allen, 23, signed with NYRB as a homegrown player at the start of the season. He went on to bang in 15 goals and earn a spot on the USL All-League First Team, as well as nominations for MVP and Rookie of the Year. Allen is a Jersey guy, former Georgetown player and brother of NYCFC’s RJ Allen. He’ll matchup against SPR’s aforementioned Canadian rookie Amer Didic in what promises to be a physical battle.