DC SCORES middle school poet-athletes took to the pitch at Audi Field and The Fields at RFK for the 2022 Capital Cup championship finals. Photo: Justin Williams
In November, twelve of the District’s best middle school soccer teams competed in a series of thrilling playoff games to be crowned champions of the 2022 DC SCORES Capital Cup.
The trophy represents the culmination of the nonprofit’s middle school fall season. DC SCORES provides the only consistent, free-to-play public school leagues in DC and administers coed, girls, and boys leagues for middle schoolers across the District.
Each league has a public school and a charter school division. On November 10, the top two teams in each league faced off in championship games at Audi Field. The public school and charter school league winners then played against one another in a series of finals hosted at The Fields at RFK on November 18.
Jason Gross, Senior Program Director for Soccer and Operations at DC SCORES, said that fair play was a hallmark of the finals.
“I was very impressed with the individual skill, teamwork, and, most importantly, sportsmanship during the event,” said Gross. “The Capital Cup is a competitive championship series and players didn’t lose sight of letting the game take away from our core values.”
A Leckie Education Campus poet-athlete celebrates scoring the winning goal against Jefferson Middle School Academy in the co-ed public school division final. Photo: Justin Williams
An Audi Field Opportunity
On November 10, competing teams from across the District arrived at Audi Field for the division championships to find the stadium transformed. DC SCORES Capital Cup branding was displayed on screens throughout the venue, while the supporters’ section was filled with family members, friends, teachers, and other supporters who turned out to cheer on the poet-athletes.
Also in the stands were a number of special guests, including professional soccer players from the Washington Spirit; Argentine soccer coach, manager, and women’s soccer advocate Evelina Cabrera; and Ward 4 DC Councilmember Janeese Lewis George.
The field was split in half to accommodate concurrent games for the public school and charter school league play-offs in each gender category. In the first match-ups, Leckie Education Campus beat Jefferson Middle School Academy in the co-ed public school final, while Paul Public Charter School’s co-ed team defeated E. L. Haynes Public Charter School in the charter school division.
A Jefferson player congratulates his goalkeeper after she pulls off a penalty kick save in their game against Leckie. Photo: Justin Williams
Both games had a number of standout moments, but perhaps the most memorable was an impressive penalty kick save from Jefferson Academy’s goalkeeper. Before the match, DC SCORES staff members had presented her with a pair of cleats worn by Washington Spirit and U.S. Women’s National Team forward and DC SCORES board member Ashley Hatch as part of Hatch’s Boots From Pros initiative.
In the girls’ division championships, School Without Walls won against Sousa Middle School to secure the public school title, while BASIS Washington DC narrowly won a tense penalty shootout against Washington Latin Public Charter School. For many of the players, the opportunity to play on D.C. United’s home turf was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I’m just so excited that our whole team gets to be here at Audi Field to play,” said one School Without Walls poet-athlete.
In the boys’ division play-offs, Cardozo Education Campus defeated MacFarland Middle School to advance as the public school finalists, while Washington Latin’s boys’ team secured their spot as the winners of the charter school division after an incredibly close game against DC International (DCI) School. The thrilling charter school final culminated in an 18-round penalty shoot-out that saw Washington Latin’s keeper pull off the winning save from a strike from his DCI counterpart after both teams’ players took two penalty kicks each.
Cardozo Boys’ team celebrates winning the public school boys’ division championship. Photo: Justin Williams
Councilmember Lewis George, herself a DC SCORES alumna, presented trophies to the boys’ winners in an on-field ceremony. The politician admitted that it was hard to pick a side to root for in the championships, since five of the teams came from her Ward 4 constituency, but congratulated all teams on their “tremendous heart and sportsmanship.”
Finals at The Fields at RFK
On November 18, the winners of each division returned for the championship finals, which were held in partnership with the DC State Athletic Association at The Fields at RFK, a soccer complex located next to D.C. United’s historic former home ground, RFK Stadium.
On a cold and rainy night, teams were energized by pre-match surprise appearances from Washington Spirit players Dorian Bailey, Maddie Elwell, Anna Heilferty, and Marissa Sheva, who also gave pep talks and led warm-ups for the girls’ finalists, School Without Walls and BASIS.
Washington Spirit players Marissa Sheva, Maddie Elwell, and Annie Heilferty and Spirit Community Relations Coordinator and former midfielder Gaby Vincent give a pep talk to the School Without Walls girls’ team ahead of their final against BASIS Washington DC. Photo: Justin Williams.
In the co-ed final, Leckie lost out to Paul in a hard-fought match that saw both teams play a physical game in an effort to win the championship. The game brought back memories for players and coaches alike; the two squads also met in the Capital Cup co-ed finals in 2021.
BASIS secured a comfortable victory against School Without Walls in the girls’ final, taking the pre-match advice of Spirit player Anna Heilferty to create memorable goal celebrations. BASIS goalscorers treated the crowd to their best impersonations of the celebrations of soccer icons including Alex Morgan, Christiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi.
A BASIS Washington DC player imitates Christiano Ronaldo’s iconic Siu celebration during the Capital Cup championship final. Photo: Aya Takeuchi.
In the closest game of the three-match series, Washington Latin defeated Cardozo in a high-scoring boys’ final. Though evenly matched in the early stages of the game, Washington Latin took advantage of a tired and injury-plagued Cardozo in the latter stages of play to secure a victory and win the championship title.
“For all the poet-athletes who participated across both game days, the DC SCORES Capital Cup was an opportunity to show off their skill, determination, and hard work on the two most iconic soccer fields in the District,” said Katrina Owens, Executive Director of DC SCORES. “They certainly rose to the occasion by playing a series of exhilarating games that were a testament to their commitment to their teammates and coaches.”