Chilliwack's Brody Huitema (right) led the US Soccer Development Academy league in scoring

Huitema in Houston for U.S. Soccer Academy Finals

Chilliwack's Brody Huitema is winding down his time in the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program, hoping to end it with a championship.

As Brody Huitema prepares for the next leg of his soccer journey, he finds himself in Texas this month for one final tournament with the U-18 Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Chilliwack kid and his team are in Houston, prepping for U.S. Soccer Academy Finals Week.

The Whitecaps hit the pitch with seven other teams, gunning for a North American title.

“We’ll play three games at the Houston Amateur Sports Park, and if we win those we’re in the final July 20 at BBVA Compass Stadium,” Huitema said. “The Whitecaps U-18s were second at this tournament last year (losing 2-1 to Dallas FC in the final), so we’re raring to go and win this thing.”

Huitema and company cemented their contender status two weeks ago in Dallas, winning their group at the Final 32 tournament.

They beat the Chicago Fire 3-0 in blazing hot conditions. They bombed the Houston Dynamo 5-2 and blanked the PA (Pennsylvania Classics) 3-0.

Huitema scored two goals in that tournament.

“That team hadn’t allowed more than two goals in a game all year, and only gave up 15 total the entire season,” Huitema said. “For us, scoring 11 goals in that tournament and 98 all year, everyone’s feeling pretty confident.”

The former Chilliwack secondary school student scored 28 goals in 25 games during the U.S. Soccer Development Academy season, filling the net more than anyone else in the 80-team circuit.

His Whitecaps topped the Northwest division at 22-6-3.

“If you watch the season, it’s a lot to do with team play,” Huitema said of his scoring outburst. “We play well together, and I’ve been there to finish off a lot of plays, but it’s more of a team thing than any great individual performance.”

That didn’t stop Huitema from getting snapped up by Duke University early in the NCAA recruiting season (January).

“I visited the school and got to meet the coaches and staff and players, and got to live in the dorms for a couple of days,” Huitema said. “They’ve got a great atmosphere with the way soccer and academics mix.”

Being a Blue Devil promises to be super cool, but by committing so early, the teenager has removed one aspect of what makes next week’s tournament so interesting. Like the Final 32 tournament, this one will be followed closely by collegiate talent scouts.

“All the university coaches line the field, and you’ve got more than 100 guys walking around with clipboards and papers,” Huitema chuckled. “But because I’ve already committed to Duke, they won’t be paying much attention to me. I’ll probably talk to a few I got to know during the recruiting process, but that’s about it.”

Once the tournament is over, the Chilliwack kid will take one week off to spend back home with family and friends before joining Canada’s national U-18 team for an overseas trip to Spain. He’ll take part in a camp running Aug. 8-22, and play friendlies against teams from Argentina, Japan, Bulgaria and Belarus.

Then it’s off to Duke, putting the Whitecaps in the rear-view mirror.

For now.

“I can’t speak for others, but for me, it’s been leaps and bounds with my development on and off the pitch,” he said. “I had to move out and learn to take care of myself. So as much as it’s been a big soccer leap, it’s been a big maturity leap too. And the guys in this program, we’ve all gone to school together day in and day out. It’s as close to a brotherhood as you can get with a team and I’ll miss them. It’s been a dream to play here.”