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Close-knit Hunter SC 62Blues team looks to cap their time together with a state title

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Photo by Matthew Ralph

In an age when switching teams is the norm more than the exception in youth soccer, Hunter SC 62Blues are a throwback to a different era when a team of players who grew up near each other stayed together and shared as much history off the field as on it.

This Sunday is likely the end of the road for the group of players hailing primarily from the neighboring communities of Abington and Cheltenham and they have a chance to cap their time together with a state cup. They’ll take on Sporting PA 2006 boys in the U-18 NCS State Cup final at WSFS Bank Sportsplex at 8:30 a.m.

“We don’t have the luxury of drawing guys from all over and building the team,” head coach Mike Hoffman said. “So most of these guys have been on this team for 7-8 years and the chemistry, the way they work, they’re never out of the game, they never give up and I’m just so proud of them.”

Mike Hoffman at the USYS National Championships in July 2023

The 62Blues reached the US Youth Soccer National Championships last summer and despite not advancing out of group play in the U-17 division, went unbeaten in three games and showed well playing as underdogs. They qualified for the competition in Orlando via the US Youth Soccer National League and in the end proved they belonged with the way they fought in each game, finishing two points shy of the group winner with a win and two draws. They conceded just one goal in the three games.

They’ve carried the momentum from a successful national showing in the summer – several players were part of a successful Abington High School season as well – into this year’s Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer State Cup, outscoring opponents 8-3 en route to Sunday’s final. They face a Sporting PA team (formerly FC Europa Elite 2006) that is seeking its third state cup trophy after coming up short in last year’s U-17 final.

“I would say it’s definitely been fun,” Brady Hartman said of his time playing with the 62Blues, a team whose name is a nod to the year the club was founded and Chelsea FC. “Pretty much everyone on the team you see all the time even when you aren’t playing and it means a little more than just the soccer because we are representing the club and our township and that just makes winning even more special.”

Hartman had a brace in overtime in the quarterfinal and Oscar Hoffman paced the attack with a hat trick in the semifinal to lead Hunter SC to the first state cup final in club history.

Oscar Hoffman at the USYS National Championships in July 2023

“What better way for a team whose club was formed in 1962, is named the 62Blues and is in the 62nd year of the club’s history to get the first NCS state cup title,” Mike Hoffman said. “We’re shooting for history here.”

It’s also family history for Mike and his son Oscar. Mike was coached by his dad and has made the most of the opportunities spent coaching his oldest, who is heading off to college this summer.

“I would say it’s made our relationship closer,” Oscar Hoffman said. “He hasn’t given me any cop outs and he’s pushed me to put in the work to get better and improve my skills. He doesn’t just put me on the field because I’m his son; I’ve had to work and dedicate myself to getting better.”

Development has been a key feature in the 62Blues’ rise from a decent local team to one that can compete at the state cup level and beyond. On Sunday, they’ll face a very familiar foe that knocked them out of the state cup last year and in a couple years prior. Sporting won the meeting between the two teams a couple weeks ago 3-2.

“They’re a really good team,” Hartman said. “But we’re definitely confident going into the game.”

Hartman’s dad, Billy Hartman, has already brought home a state cup trophy this year, coaching the Vereinigung Erzgebirge Mountaineers to a U-17 Presidents Cup win last month. Last summer both his older brothers won state cups with PA Dominion (Liam Hartman) and Vereinigung Erzgebirge (Ryan Hartman) and his dad was a coach on the VE team that won the U-19 state Presidents Cup and made the regional final of the Eastern Presidents Cup.

Brady Hartman at the USYS National Championships in July 2023

“Everyone around me has a state cup it feels like,” Brady said. “We went to Nationals and National League and the only thing we haven’t done is win a state cup so it’s definitely important to get that on the resume.”

Mike Hoffman said from the early days coaching this group he saw it as an opportunity to show what could be done keeping a group of players together through the high school years playing for the same club, keeping costs down and focusing on incremental improvement.

“It’s not the only way to do it, but I think it makes it extra special for us to be able to do this together as friends, as a team and have success,” Hoffman said, who says he has benefited greatly from the support and dedication of assistant Derek Glennon. “I’m proud of the boys, of Derek and the commitment of the families buying in and making this such an enjoyable ride.”

Sunday’s winner will punch a ticket to the US Youth Soccer Eastern Regionals but there’s a question mark over whether fielding a team to travel to West Virginia will be possible. The goal all along has been to win states and they are 90 minutes away from doing just that.

“To put ourselves in a position to go out with a win in the state cup final is exactly what we wanted, exactly what we were shooting for,” Mike Hoffman said.

Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for TheCup.us, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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