By Paul Kennedy – Managing Editor, SoccerAmerica.com
Teams wishing to travel have hundreds of youth soccer tournaments to choose from, but which tournaments are the best? Soccer America Magazine surveyed leading youth coaches across the country and asked them to name the best tournaments, taking into account everything they consider important: competition, organization, facilities, showcase, destination. Soccer America also asked coaches to name the best tournaments by category.
Boys Top 10
1. DISNEY’S SOCCER SHOWCASE. Its timing (between Christmas and New Year’s, i.e. between high school seasons), location (at the Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex outside Orlando, Fla.) and full-time event staff allow it to attract top youth teams. Last year’s four U-16 regional champions all attended. The tournament features three divisions – Showcase, Copa and Predator – for boys and girls as well as a U-17 Super Group for boys, featuring ODP teams and foreign teams.
2. SAN DIEGO SURF CUP. Timing (late summer) and location (San Diego) made the Surf Cup one of the first youth tournaments to take on a national scope. It’s now played over two weekends in late July and early August at the 18-field San Diego Polo Club complex in Del Mar.
3. DALLAS CUP. The most famous international youth tournament played in the United States. Past participants included David Beckham. Dallas Cup XXVI will be held for the first time at the Frisco soccer complex, the new home of FC Dallas.
4. NOMADS THANKSGIVING TOURNAMENT. The boys-only tournament attracts more than 320 teams to the San Diego area over Thanksgiving. Tournament headquarters are at UC San Diego in La Jolla.
5. ADIDAS POTOMAC MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT. The suburban Maryland tournament is held over Memorial Day weekend, attracting top Region I teams, among others, seeking competition before regional play.
6. SCORE AT THE SHORE. The U.S. Club Soccer tournament went big-time in, attracting many top-ranked teams in late summer. The boys tournament was moved from Long Island to Florida to be held again in conjunction with U.S. Club Soccer’s National Cup.
7. PRESIDENT’S CUP. SC del Sol runs this Phoenix area tournament that attracted two national champions and three runners-ups. It’s a popular mid-winter tournament for teams in Regions I and II seeking to flee the cold.
8. CASL SHOOTOUT. Top-flight winners in included Sockers FC of Chicago, Pateadores of Southern California and the Michigan Wolves, reflecting the Raleigh, N.C., area tournament’s national reach. The older boys will play Dec. 9-11 in conjunction with the Men’s College Cup.
9. ADIDAS BLUE CHIP SHOWCASE. The boys edition enters its 14th year, having emerged as a major showcase event for U-16 and U-17 teams. Cincinnati’s Classics Hammer FC hosts the tournament at suburban Kopling Park.
10. SCHWAN’S USA CUP. Out-of-state visitors to the mid-July tournament pump an estimated $15 million into the Minnesota economy. Launched by the Sons of Norway in 1985, it attracted 982 teams.
Girls Top 10
1. DISNEY’S SOCCER SHOWCASE. The boys and girls competitions are staggered – the girls tournament finishes New Year’s weekend – to give more teams the chance to compete at the Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The girls tournament had three champions go on to win regional titles.
2. WAGS TOURNAMENT. Long before girls soccer was the hot sport it is today, WAGS was operating in the Washington, D.C., area. Now in its 30th year, WAGS (Washington Area Girls Soccer) attracts many nationally ranked teams each October.
3. SAN DIEGO SURF CUP. Teams from all parts of the country jump at the chance to face teams from Southern California, the girls soccer hotbed. The host San Diego Surf won national girls titles. The boys and girls summer tournament is now in its 25th year. A separate Thanksgiving tournament for girls is in its 12th year.
4. CASL SHOOTOUT. The girls competition at the Raleigh, N.C., tournament is split over two weekends in November. The U-16 and U-17 girls play a showcase format; the girls U-15 feature championship play.
5. PDA GIRLS SOCCER SHOWCASE. The Memorial Day weekend tournament, hosted by New Jersey club PDA, was rated highly by girls coaches. PDA teams swept the U-15, U-16 and U-17 Cup divisions and then won Region I titles five weeks later.
6. TEXAS SHOOTOUT. Hosted by the Houston area Challenge Soccer Club in early June, the Texas Shootout averages approximately 240 teams and more than 300 college coaches. It’s held in conjunction with the adidas Cup, featuring U.S. and foreign national youth teams.
7. SCORE AT THE SHORE. The girls competition, held in early August, remains on Long Island, while the boys tournament moved to Florida. Soccer at the Shore South was added, featuring boys and girls divisions played in Jacksonville, Fla., over President’s Day weekend.
8. LAS VEGAS COLLEGE SHOWCASE. Held in mid-March, the tournament is organized by the Neusport-Tabagators Soccer Club. In the girls competitions, such national powers as PDA of New Jersey, Sereno of Arizona and Slammers, Eclipse and San Diego Surf of Cal South entered teams. Games are held at the Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex in northwest Las Vegas. (Editor’s note: The tournament was previously misidentified as another Las Vegas tournament.)
9. ORANGE CLASSIC. Started as the Junior Orange Bowl Soccer Tournament in 1980 with 16 teams, the Orange Classic had more than 350 boys and girls teams in. Based in Broward County, north of Miami, it’s another popular post-Christmas tournament.
10. TEXAS CUP. The Dallas Sting, a pioneering club in girls soccer, has operated the Texas Cup for 15 years. The tournament is held over Thanksgiving weekend at sites in Dallas and the surrounding suburbs.
(This article originally appeared in the August issue of SoccerAmerica)