Mike Connerley Surf Cup Director
Youth Soccer News: Surf Cup Director Mike Connerley on Tournaments, Teams and His Commitment to Youth Soccer
Surf Cup is a professional-quality soccer event. Not only is the soccer competition great, but before the games start and after the games are over Surf Cup provides an amazing opportunity for sharing the joy of soccer and networking. At the beautiful San Diego Polo Fields in Del Mar since 1992, Surf Cup is celebrating their 32nd year. Mike Connerley, Director of the Surf Cup Tournament, is celebrating his 25th year running the show, and what an excellent, professional show he runs. Connerley chatted with SoccerNation News about the upcoming youth soccer competition.
SURF CUP HISTORY:
Originally the San Diego Surf Cup was part of the San Diego Surf Soccer Club and featured 38 teams in five age groups. The original tournament director, Mike Finley, also trained the Surf Boys U-12, coaching future NFL player John Lynch, who made the Pro Bowl for several years. As the tournament grew, Mike Connerley changed the name to the San Diego Surf Classic and in 1981 approximately 180 teams competed.
Then, in 1992, the tournament moved the soccer tournament to the San Diego Polo Club in Del Mar and expanded its successful competition to two weekends.
In 1993, Surf Cup began turning away teams, only accepting the best of the best.
SNN: What is new with San Diego’s biggest and most prestigious youth soccer tournament, the Surf Cup?
Mike Connerley: The biggest change is that we have switched when the youngers and olders compete. For the first time the Olders will compete first.
SNN: Why was this change made?
Mike Connerley: Women’s college coaches had requested we change our schedule as the colleges are starting their season a week earlier. The college coaches want to be able to attend Surf Cup and still coach their first conference games, so we accommodated their schedule. We just flipped the weekends.
SNN: Surf Cup is one of America’s top three youth soccer competitions and always has more applicants than spaces. How many teams did you turn away this year?
Mike Connerley: We turned away over 300 teams this year. The majority of the teams we cut were all in the older age groups. Seventy percent of the teams we did not accept were in the 16, 17 and 18 year old brackets.
Here is a list of accepted teams by age bracket
SNN: Surf Cup has teams traveling from all across America to compete. Which clubs have the most teams competing?
Mike Connerley: The club that has the most teams accepted into the competition (outside of San Diego Surf) is Crossfire Academy from Seattle. Their Academy and ECNL teams are coming to compete.
SNN: How many teams does San Diego Surf Club have in the Cup?
Mike Connerley: 29 Surf teams or about 7% of the total 376. Also another 115 are from Cal South.
SNN: What are some of best clubs to watch this year?
Mike Connerley: From the East Coast, I would recommend Bethesda SC from Maryland. Bethesda is sending all their boys teams and they are very good. And from Northern California, I would keep an eye on Santa Clara Sporting – they are one of the best boys clubs from Cal North coming to Surf Cup. How they got passed up for Academy status in Cal North is beyond me.
SNN: Is there anything else new this year?
Mike Connerley: The tournament will look different this year. Surf Cup has added player benches and tents for every team at all the fields.
Teams do not need to bring their own tents and benches unless they want shade in between the games.
SNN: Surf Cup brings in an amazing amount of money to San Diego. How much money did the soccer event bring into San Diego last year?
Mike Connerley: When we do our economic impact for San Diego, we include all three weekends (Surf Cup Olders, Surf Cup Youngers and Surf College Cup). Surf Cup generated over $25 Million in 2011. This year, Surf Cup accepted eight more teams, so we expect to bring in a couple of million more.
SNN: Why is San Diego such a great location for a youth soccer tournament?
Mike Connerley: San Diego is a great location for a youth soccer tournament because it is a place everyone wants to come to. It is a vacation destination and our weather is fabulous. And our competition has a fantastic host club, the San Diego Surf.
SNN: Surf Cup provides high-level competition, but it also is a great event to attend. There is always delicious food and fun booths to check out. How many vendors will be there this year?
Mike Connerley: Surf Cup XXXII will have more than 35 concessions, sponsors and vendor booths showing off their goods and foods.
SNN: How much does it cost to have an exclusive at Surf Cup?
|U.S. Women's National Team Player Rachel Buehler played for San Diego Surf as a youth player. Buelher visited Surf Cup in 2011 to sign autographs. Here she is with VP of Marketing Dave Dawson.
|John Kentera, General Manager of San Diego's Championship Sockers visits with Manchester City's Mark Burton, Mike Connerley and Jeff Illingworth, Director of Coaching for CV Manchester and Cherif Zein
| Erik Cronkrite from Nike and John Lococo from Soccer Loco
Mike Connerley: We don’t do exclusivity in a category for anything under a $50,000 sponsorship.
SNN: One of my favorite tents is all of Nike’s Surf Cup clothing from soccerloco.
Mike Connerley: Yes, that is always very popular and we really appreciate our sponsorship with Nike and soccerloco.
SNN: How much money does Surf Cup raise and donate to San Diego Surf Soccer Club?
Mike Connerley: Surf Cup provides valuable funding for the Surf Soccer Club. In 2012 our cash donation to the Surf Soccer will be about $170,000, along with in-kind donations totaling another$90,000 to bring the total to over $260,000.
One of the biggest ways Surf Cup raises funds for the club is through the fundraising opportunities (concession and hotel commissions), which then brings the total donation to the club to $345,108.
SNN: Surf Cup is one of the three most prestigious youth tournaments in America. What is the difference between Surf Cup, Dallas Cup and Disney Cup?
Mike Connerley: Surf Cup, Dallas Cup and Disney Cup all have different focuses. The Dallas Cup is more international than Surf Cup. Years ago, Dallas used to be the #1 college recruiting tournament for boys, but now they accept so many international teams that it is harder for college coaches to really recruit. If a good foreign team applies to Surf Cup we will take them, but it’s not something we go out of our way to promote.
The Disney Cup is a very good tournament and the biggest difference is their format. They have multiple winners in the same age bracket.
SNN: Do the top teams in America compete in Surf Cup?
Mike Connerley: Yes. In the USSF Development Academy program, the youth soccer teams can only play in selected tournaments. Surf Cup is sanctioned by the USSF to have Academy teams compete, and we have the most top ranked American teams competing against each other for a single winner per age bracket.
Right now, there are only three tournaments that the Federation allows teams to play in that are not run by the academy: Surf Cup, Dallas Cup and Disney.
SNN: This is your 25th year with Surf Cup. Has it been worth it to you?
Mike Connerley: Would I do it all again? Yes!
SNN: People are always curious if you make money as Tournament Director.
Mike Connerley: I first started working for the Surf Club in 1984, and volunteered my time. I then became tournament director in 1988 for the Surf Club tournament, and continued to work for free until 1994.
To be able to take the Tournament to the next level, we formed San Diego Surf Cup Inc in 1994 and went to work full time, year round as tournament director, with a salary of $50,000 a year.
When I came on full time I took a huge pay cut from my previous job as a contractor, so it was difficult for the family. This year I will earn $109,000 about the same as a DOC of a Soccer Club, the difference is that last year I worked 3,455.5 hours (that’s about $30 an hour).
Most people have NO idea how much work it is running the Surf Cup events.
They come out and see it all set up and think anyone can do this. The actual running of the tournament is the easy part, it is being able to get to that point that is the difficult part of the whole operation.
SNN: Mike Connerley gives his time and talent to help others and is certainly not tournament director for the money. Connerley has given so much back to the community and changed the lives of many youth soccer players. After interviewing many Directors of Coaching, players and coaches in the two years as Editor in Chief of Soccer Nation® I can’t imagine what the landscape of youth soccer would be like without this first-rate, top-notch soccer tournament. I know neither could our readers. CLICK HERE to go to the Surf Cup website