Although they are just entering their teenage years, several members of the U13 RB United soccer team have been playing together for over seven seasons. That collective familiarity – coupled with some serious soccer skills – is the main reason the team has emphatically punched its ticket to the National Cup XI of US Club Soccer to be held July 27-30 in Waukegan. With 11 elite teams representing eight states slated to vie for a coveted national championship, the showcase tournament essentially is the World Cup and Olympics rolled into one for premier youth soccer teams.

“A lot of the kids on our team have been playing soccer together since they were 5 years old,” said RB United coach Mario Saucedo, a Brookfield resident. “The core of our team is really strong and the kids are playing very well [now]. We’re really excited for these kids. Hopefully, they play their best soccer and fulfill their dreams by winning a national championship.”

The team is made up of 18 players (ages 12-13) who hail from all over. The only sole female on the team, defender Esther Annoreno, plans to play soccer and softball at RB High School.

“Everybody on our team has so many skills,” said Annoreno, who attends Hauser Middle School. “We all just have a bond and really click as a team. I’m really excited to play at the National Cup because nobody from the Riverside Brookfield area has gone before.

Annoreno and her squad could face teams from as far of as Alaska, New York and California. “Win or lose, it’s something I’ll look back on proudly when I’m 20 or 30 years old,” she said.

Nathan Juarez and Luis Cardenas, from North Riverside and Riverside respectively, patrol the midfield for RB United, which practices twice a week at Ehlert Park.

To qualify for National Cup XI, the team certainly racked up its share of victories. After dominating its Northern Illinois Soccer League Classic Division regular season, RB United won a Club Cup tournament and then the National Cup XI Midwest Regionals, taking three games by outscoring opponents 9-2.

“We get along really well and have a good time,” said RB United defender/midfielder Bryan Soberanis. “We have good speed, pass the ball well and can score goals, but our goalie [Arron Perez] and defense are also very good.”

Offensively, RB United features a pair of high scoring forwards in Omar Jaimes and Luis Mainez, while Luis Lopez, Luis Pena and Adrian Ortega control the midfield. Annoreno and Soberanis are team leaders in the backfield.

While Saucedo praises the players on his team, he hopes RB United draws more aspiring soccer players from Riverside, Brookfield and N. Riverside in the future.

RB boys and girls soccer coach Danny Makaric runs Chicago Inter Soccer Club, which serves as a feeder program of sorts for future Bulldog soccer players. Conversely, RB United claims just a couple of hometown players.

“Sometimes it’s hard in the [Riverside Brookfield] area to promote soccer because baseball comes first,” Saucedo said, “but I’ve put flyers up and tried to spread the word to local kids. We’re very happy with what we have accomplished. We’re a smaller program, but RB United is making a name for itself.”