By Bob Narang

The 16th Annual PepsiCo Showdown Girls is a high school sporting event unlike any other, featuring 96 high schools, 2,500+ girls soccer players, more than 200 communities and nearly 200 games in an eight-day span.

And to top it off, all of those teams and players are at Olympic Park in Schaumburg on back-to-back Saturdays – starting with 48 games on April 7 for Opening Day and finishing with a massive celebration on April 14 for Championship Saturday.

This spring, PepsiCo Showdown girls players will make a difference in the lives of 96 children from military families. Each event, the PepsiCo Showdown brackets are named after a local charity/nonprofit to bring awareness, engagement and exposure to that cause. This time, however, the brackets are named after the U.S. Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.


Miss the LIVE seeding show? CLICK HERE to see WGN-TV coverage. 

The teams, the seeds: Waukegan (1), Solorio (2), Romeoville (3), Bolingbrook (4), Montini (5), Garcia (6), Thornwood (7), Von Steuben (8), Streamwood (9), Back of the Yards (10), Regina (11), Bloom (12), Pritzker (13), Washington (14), Willows Academy (15) and Rockford East (16). 

Top players (college in parenthesis): Solorio defender Cindy Barbosa (Morton College), midfielder Pamela Valtierra (Morton College); Bolingbrook goalie Julia Lentz (Northern Illinois); Montini defender Sonia Finch (Augustana); Garcia midfielder Alyssa Zavala (Olivet Nazarene); Streamwood forward Kaila Ford (Clarke); Bloom defender Vannesa Lopez (Prairie State).

Top teams: Waukegan opened the season with two wins in its first four games. Solorio hopes star midfielder Laura Saucedo is back in time for the PepsiCo Showdown. Saucedo has not played this season due to an ankle injury, but midfielder Itzely Candelario has shined in her absence. Romeoville senior goalie Macayla Dwyer has averaged nearly 20 saves per games for a young team building toward the end of the season. Bolingbrook is a team to watch, especially with four-year starting goalie Julia Lentz.

Keep an eye on: Back of the Yards. The Chicago-based school is relying on a first-year goalie, but welcomed back a solid group of seniors with big-game experience. The seniors are seeking their fourth conference championship. Back of the Yard’s strength stems from strong, technical players, though scoring goals has been a struggle early in the season.

Did you know: Washington brought back just five players that were on the roster for the PepsiCo Showdown last season. Coach Rafael Ramirez is touting three players he believes have the potential to be Division I players down the road in senior midfielder Esmeralda Avila and twins Priscilla and Crystal Sotelo. The Sotelo twins, Ramirez noted, could’ve played professionally in Mexico, but decided to stay in the hopes of doing “special things here at home.”

A BONUS did you know: Montini returns four players who were named to the GCAC all-conference team last season in junior Ellie Krick, senior Sonia Finch, senior Kate Crotty and senior Alondra Holler. Besides a strong senior class, the Broncos have three freshmen – Alivia Gianatasic, Shea Smith and Franca Finch – expected to be major contributors.

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