Alright - slow day at work. Here are my initial predictions for State League subject to change prior to the season. APL - by far the least amount of space between the teams. I wouldn't be surprised at all if any of the top 5 or 6 teams below wins this division. I don't think there would be any clear favorites. I could definitely see a team winning this division without a winning record (like 5-2-5 record). 1. Excel Academy - Didn't lose any players but gained a few (including one of the Rising ECNL goalies). If they can sort out their midfield issues from last year and get the ball their speedy talent up front they can really do some damage in APL and beyond (Desert League & Regional Tournaments). 2. Del Sol Academy II - snuck up on everyone and won State Cup. Gained a few kids from RSL ECNL and should be improved however they'll have to go against the best AZ competition every week whereas last year they didn't play the best teams until the 2nd half of the season. 3. CCV - have most kids back although lost a few including their goalie. One of their forwards up front is a really strong player and they have some good midfielders. 4. FC Arizona Olayo - Really good team that seems to sneak up on everyone. Won President's Cup and should compete hard for APL. Wouldn't surprise me at all if they finish much higher. 5. Rising Meadows - Meadows is a very good coach but not sure he can repeat as APL champion after losing his 7 best players. I've heard they still have a lot of good talent but I probably wouldn't expect it to come together until later in the season once they begin to mesh. 6. El Paso Locomotive - Pretty good team. Saw them scrimmage against some Rising teams last year. Will be competitive but I don't think they are better than the top AZ teams. 7. RSL Markette - Turned it on at the end of the season and beat Meadows in State Cup however, I'm assuming they lost some of their players to the RSL S. EA team and Markette wasn't very competitive vs. higher level competition last season (Lost 8 of the 10 APL games and 7 of the 9 Desert League games). State League 1 - I see this mostly as a 2 team race although maybe Calcio might surprise. 1. Barca Academy - Brand new team that might start slow and take some time to gel but they have a few players with ECNL/MLS talent. 2. Rising Irwin - Have almost all of their kids back. Lost in a exciting overtime PK shootout vs. Olayo in the Prez Cup Semi-finals and beat a bunch of good teams last year (CCV, Del Sol) I expect them to continue to compete and potentially get to APL next season (although they probably could have applied and got in this year in leiu of RSL Markette). 3. Calcio - Pretty solid team with some talented kids. Can turn it on sometimes when they need to but not usually consistent enough to win vs. good teams. 4. Rising Ramirez - If they have most of the same team as last year, I would expect them to beat the Sandsharks for the play in game and be competitive here. 5. East Valley NSFC - Somewhat puzzling team. Finished 2nd in SL1 and beat a pretty depleted PRFC Meadows team in Patriots Cup but got demolished in a pretty weak Prez Cup field where they only won 1 game (vs a not good RSL N. 2nd team) and got demolished by Olayo in the Q-finals. 6. RSL So AZ Haouala - finished last in this division last season. Made it to the final of Prez cup but mostly by beating pretty weak teams (RSL N Thompson & PRFC Ramirez). I did like this teams goalie though. 7. RSL N. Thompson - Another team with a pretty good goalie but I feel bad for him since it was target practice against him every time I saw this team play last year. I'm assuming some of their better players moved to the RSL N. EA team but perhaps if this team is a mix of Thompson & EA, they could be more competitive in this bracket. State League 2 - Admittedly probably the division that I've seen the least amount of teams play live so the prediction here is pretty much like throwing darts blindfolded. 1. Sandsharks - Were pretty competitive in SL2 last season (finished 3rd). I think they tied Rising Irwin twice last year. 2. Tuzos Academy - Tuzos usually puts good teams together. The 08's Tuzos crashed out last year (had to forfeit a bunch of games) but I wouldn't be surprised if they win the play in and end up doing OK. 3. Rising Kassube - Have some good players but also lost a bunch (to RSL EA) from last year. If they can get it together they might be competitive in this division. 4. Rayados AZ 08 Blue - Made it to the quarterfinals of Prez Cup before getting blasted 4-1 by Rising Irwin. 5. Yavapai Soccer Select 08 - Finished 2nd in Open League to make it up to SL2. 6. AZFC Tapia - finished 5th in Open League 1 to make it to SL2. Rising WV Gonzalez - I think this is a new team as I know next to nothing about them. West Valley recruits some good talent so they could be competitive. Probably unfair to rank them. Best of the Travel Teams*: 1. Rising MLS - Lost a few players (including one of their main playmakers who moved to FL) but still has a ton of talent back. Put on an impressive showing at Man City Cup where they narrowly lost to SD Surf but controlled most of the game. 2. Del Sol MLS - if they have the same team as last year I expect them to be improved. They gave some of the CO MLS teams a run at the end of the season. 3. RSL MLS - Lost at least 3 of their big difference maker players to Barca Academy 07 MLS. Not sure how good they'll be. 4. Rising ECNL - Brought in 7 new players. Should be a completely different and much improved team. Will have to be much better if they want to be competitive in the ECNL SW conference (where they have to play against several top 50 Nationally ranked teams including SD Surf, SDSC, Beach, Real SoCal and Heat). 5. Arsenal ECNL - Struggled mightily down the stretch last year (potentially due to also playing in APL). I've heard that they also have an influx of new good players so should be exciting to watch. Have to also play in one of the toughest conferences in all of 08 Soccer (ECNL SW). EA RSL teams - Don't know much about the make up of them (especially the RSL S team) so would be unfair to rank them. I do know that the RSL N. team had some of the Rising Kassube players come over to it. *full disclosure: my kid plays on one of these travel teams so please take my opinion with a grain of salt here. I tried to not let my biases get in the way here but of course that is subjective.