Northern Italy becomes the center of the DODEA-Europe soccer world this weekend as Vicenza and Aviano host two days sets of divisional matches.

The four-team slate at Vicenza is headlined by a rematch of last year’s 2016 DODEA-Europe Division I girls soccer championship match between champion Stuttgart and runner-up Naples. Vilseck and the host Cougars, meanwhile, will each have the chance to insinuate themselves into this year’s title hunt with matchups against one of those returning finalists.

Stuttgart seems an unstoppable force headed to what would be its third straight European championship next month. The Panthers throttled a solid Vilseck squad 7-0 before spring break and strengthened their grip on bragging rights over archrival Ramstein last weekend by blasting the Royals 4-1, a rare lopsided result in the schools’ famously back-and-forth feud.

Naples might prove to be the only obstacle in Stuttgart’s path capable of slowing its momentum ahead of the tournament. The Wildcats took a substantial step last year in reaching the Division I final, where they absorbed a 4-0 loss to the rolling Panthers. Naples’ next step is to knock off the defending champs, and they’ll get their first chance to do so Friday.

Aviano’s four-school schedule, meanwhile, features the reigning Division II boys champions Marymount, along with Rota, American Overseas School of Rome and the host Saints. The Admirals are coming all the way from Spain by bus.

Rota will get plenty of soccer in once it arrives, though, with games against both Aviano and AOSR on Friday and a matchup with Marymount on Saturday. Marymount, having resumed its dynasty last spring after a 2015 loss to Bahrain, has already dispatched AOSR and Aviano this season. The Lions blanked Aviano 5-0 and AOSR 2-0 as part of an undefeated start that also included a win over Division I Vicenza.

For Rota, the matches represent the whole of its limited regular-season DODEA-Europe schedule.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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