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: Bulls Prep (1), De La Salle (2), Taft (3), Manteno (4), Peotone (5), Evergreen Park (6), St. Joseph (7), DePaul Prep (8), Crete-Monee (9), Marine Leadership (10), Soto (11), St. Laurence (12), Goode (13), Beecher (14), Parker (15-SB) and Trinity (16-SB). 

Top players (college in parenthesis): Bulls Prep midfielder Michelle Ulloque (Dominican), forward Alma Cruz; Crete-Monee forwards Lauren Smith and Grace Miller; Beecher midfielder Carah Graham; Taft defender Nicole Gorder; De La Salle midfielder Kayla Cianflone; St. Joseph defender Mariya Mendoza; Manteno forward Ryan Conway; Marine Leadership midfielder Michie Nunez; and Goode forward Maricela Carrales.

Top teams: Ulloque, a Bulls Prep senior, is coming off a junior season in which she scored 37 goals and tallied six assists. De La Salle is a contender in the GCAC again this season, paced by Kayla Cianflone. St. Joseph is led by senior defender Mariya Mendoza, while senior midfielder Takyra Jackson is coming off an injury. For her career, she has scored 79 goals and tallied 52 assists in 56 games. Manteno won 12 games last season, but lost a bulk of its roster.

Keep an eye on: Coach Kathy Siefert’s team at Crete-Monee. The three-time defending Southland champions have a plethora of returning talent. Nine starters are back from a 15-6 team, highlighted by Smith (41 goals, 12 assists) and Miller (seven goals, nine assists). Miller, a three-year starter, is an interesting player. She was Crete-Monee’s kicker in the fall, becoming the program’s first female player. She booted five field goals and made 44 extra-point attempts. All of this is great news, but the Warriors are off to a slow start.

New teams: Marine Leadership endured some ups and downs last season, but should get stronger as the season progresses. Last season, Marine Leadership didn’t have a senior starter, but has already shown a big improvement this season behind the play of Nunez, Gloria Salgado and Karen Salgado. This is St. Laurence’s first season ever.

Did you know: Conway is off to a hot start. She scored four goals in a 12-minute segment in the second half in a 5-0 win over Wilmington on April 3. After showing promise in her first two seasons, Conway is blending a solid technical side with increased physicality to become a scoring force, helping fill the void from losing 13 seniors from last season’s 12-10 team.

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