For most of the members of Sigma FC's A1 squad the journey to the next level of their soccer careers began a long time ago.
The A1s, most of which were born in 1995, have been one of the club's long-standing sides, sticking together since their inception as a group almost nine years ago. A number of these players were part of the first Sigma team, assembled from players from inaugural Ajax camp in 2005, to participate in a tournament in Mallorca, Spain in 2006.
This season was particularly satisfying for the A1s. The team finished first in the tough OSL U21 West Division, finishing with a 14-1-1 record. The team scored a remarkable 72 goals and conceded only 18.
Sigma's Class of 2013 produced 18 players heading to schools in Canada and the United States, including some of the top programs in the United States.
Understandably, Sigma FC Technical Director Bobby Smyrniotis is pleased with how this group has finished off its youth development arc.
"We just finished off this year, and they have won a championship, the young men have done a good job over the season in the OSL Provincial U21 season," said Smyrniotis. "We put them into a very competitive phase of training where winning was important. Obviously we do it our way, and the way we play and we have to work at that. And they have done a great job this year of taking care of business."
Headlining the Class of 2013 is several players heading to high-profile NCAA programs. Cyle Larin and Kawme Awuah are attending Univ. of Connecticut in Storrs, CT, while Chris Nanco and Alex Halis are at Syracuse Univ. in New York.
Sigma A1 team captain Daniel Corea said this year was special because everyone realized how much hard work was needed in order to make the jump to the university level.
"It was great to win our final season together. It is always nice to win.," said Corea. "Throughout the year, I think we did very well, and we improved all season. We always we want to get better and better, and this year, we definitely showed what we have.
"Most of us have been together since we went to Mallorca in 2005. These guys are like brothers to me," added Corea. "This year, we had a lot more maturity, it's a lot more competitive in training now. Now with a lot of players leaving, they know they have to fitter and stronger because we know how fit American players are.
Smyrniotis said it is somewhat unprecedented to have so many players from one graduation class move on to the college ranks. In total, Sigma FC's presence in the NCAA and CIS has swelled to more than 35 players.
"This is a quality group that's been with us for the most part since 11-12 years old. They have grown and matured and it shows in the group that we have moving off to the College game. Most of the players from our 1995 group are moving on," he said.
Asked to reflect on what the 1995 age group has meant to Sigma, Smyrniotis admits that it will be tough to lose one of his long-standing training groups in the fall.
"It's always a bittersweet thing when you've had a group for so long, then all of a sudden, we won't see them much any more," he said. "In the end, that is why we do what we do. Keep the kids moving off to the next level.
"I am proud of each and every one of them, for what they've done over the years, for the quality of football they've stuck to, for the mentality on the field and off the field, it's been a fantastic experience working with them."
Following is a complete list of the 2013 SIGMA FC Graduating class of players moving on to the college ranks this fall.