San Diego Soccer Club B2000 take on Golden State in a BU12 match at Surf Cup
Youth Soccer News: After 32 Years, Surf Cup Shines Brighter than Ever
For thirty-two years Surf Cup has drawn teams from around the country and even from abroad for two weekends of intense competition.
More teams apply to this Nike sponsored youth soccer competition than accepted. Even State Cup Champions were turned away this year. Just what is it about the tournament in San Diego, California that inspires teams and clubs to put themselves on the line in order to be invited?
SoccerNation spoke with several visiting coaches and parents, as well as one long-time San Diego area coach, to find out why they come to Surf Cup. Without hesitation, every coach and parent spoke of the level of competition that brings “The Best of the Best” to the San Diego Polo Fields every summer.
“Surf Cup is always a showcase,” said San Diego Soccer Club’s (SDSC) John Napier, who had his B2000 team competing at the BU12 level. “It’s a big event. Everybody looks forward to coming to Surf Cup, and the teams that don’t get invited are outside looking in and just wanting to be here. I think it’s one of the top tournaments in the nation. It’s always tough competition.”
This year, with the competition just to be part of the tournament so high, SDSC was one of the few San Diego County teams accepted, which was a great honor for Napier and his club. For his team it is a chance to match up with teams that they will face over the year as they move toward regional challenges.
|Campestre Juarez (in blue) take on Inter-Rage in BU12 competition at Surf Cup
“We look forward to Surf Cup and we put it up there with National Cup and State Cup,” Napier said. “In fact we actually put it higher, to be quite truthful."
"We know that the top team that comes out of Surf Cup is going to be one of the top teams across the nation, not just the best team in our local state area. We have some great competition coming from out of state and up north. I think it’s a wonderful tournament and a great learning experience for the kids,” said Napier.
It is that learning experience that is another draw for many coaches. Scott Cannon of Black Watch Premier SC had brought his BU13 team as much for the life experiences as for the soccer. “We’re coming from the East Coast and it’s our first time outside of our region, Region I,” he explained. “It’s a great experience for the boys to see different cultures and different styles of play. The grass plays a little bit differently and the speed is a little bit faster than what we are used to. Overall it’s been a fantastic experience.”
“I think any time any time you take young kids out of their comfort zone it gives them a chance to mature at many different levels,” Cannon explained, “from a soccer level as well as socially. They learn how to deal with planes and hotels, different environments. I think psychologically and socially, as much as soccer, it can really help them mature.”
For many coaches it is the chance to see how their teams compare with teams they would normally never meet as well as teams they expect to face over the season. Dan Strom, a top coach with Eastside FC from Washington State, has coached teams at different age levels in many of the top tournaments, including the Nationals. For him, bringing his BU14 team to Surf Cup was a way to measure them against upcoming competition.
|Eastside FC 98 and United FC 98 compete in a BU14 match at Surf Cup
“The reason we come to Surf Cup is to challenge ourselves and to find out how good we are – what is the level we can play at competitively against the Cal South and Cal North teams – and to see if we able to make the next step to be a contender or be competitive in the Region. We’re going to be playing in the Far West Regional League this fall with several of the teams that are here that are top teams in California.”
“It gives us a sense of where we stand as a group of players and a team in our state and our region,” he continued. “It’s super-competitive and difficult to get out of the group, let alone into the quarter-finals. We realize that it is a tough task, but it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Neil Payne, head coach of the Real Colorado GU13 team, agrees that Surf Cup allows teams to see how they match up with top competition. “It gives you a gauge of where you’re at as a team and what you need to work on,” he said. “If you do well here you know you’re probably going to have a successful season because you’re only playing against the best teams in the country. It’s good to measure yourself against other quality clubs.”
“The best soccer is out West and probably in California,” said Jake Boland, head coach of the Black Watch Premier BU15 team.
“If you look at the National Teams at almost any age, something like 35-45 percent of the player pool is California. The teams are first-rate here and the event is first-rate, so you get some very elite teams that like to come and join the party, so to speak. Like it says out front, “The Best of the Best.” That’s why it’s so exciting to be here, because you really want to measure yourself up with the best if you’re trying to be the best,” said Boland.
Coaches also spoke highly of the organization of Surf Cup every year. “Surf Cup is first class in every department,” said Tad Bobak, head coach of the Southern California Blues GU13 team, who was at the tournament for the 25th time. “It’s a good atmosphere with quality teams, and obviously everything is on one site so it makes it enjoyable to play the games and be able to see the other teams play at the same time. And the kids have a great time.”
|Parents from Guadalajara's Seleccion Cordica cheer their team on against Monterrey County FC
“They continue to do a great job,” Real Colorado’s Payne said of the organization. “They’re always hospitable. There are not many complaints ever about the Surf Cup.”
“We’ve had some friends who have come out here in the past with their clubs,” Black Watch’s Cannon explained, “and it has always been spoken of highly – the organization, the quality of play, the refereeing, everything top to bottom is first class – and it hasn’t disappointed us.”
For two teams from Mexico, this year’s Surf Cup was even more special as it was the first time for each. For both teams, Campestre Juarez BU12 and Seleccion Cordica BU12 from Guadalajara, the reputation of Surf Cup was the main draw and the reason each team went through the difficulties to attend.
While Campestre have attended regional tournaments in El Paso, Albuquerque and Phoenix, attending Surf Cup is a major move for them, and one they hope will pay off for their boys when they go back to their own area.
“We looked at the best tournaments in the U.S. and found this is one of the top three,” said Jorge Iguerra, a parent of one of the players on Campestre. “Also we like the kids to have different challenges, and I think this is a challenging tournament for them.”
Seleccion Cordica is an unusual “team” in that it is a traveling tournament team made up of players from such Guadalajara-based clubs as Chivas and Tecos. Members of the BU12 team have been together for two years and have participated in major Mexican tournaments including Chivas Cup, Vallarta Cup, Borrequitos Cup and Tecos Cup. In 2011 the team took first in Chivas Cup and second in Vallarta Cup. This year they have finished second in both Tecos Spring Cup and Borrequitos Cup.
|Players and coaches from Guadalajara's Seleccion Cordica pose after their match with Monterrey County FC
“It’s a big event for the kids,” said Maria Gonzalez, a parent with the club. “Some of them made a very big effort to come. Some of them have never been here [in the USA] before and it’s a very exciting opportunity for them.”
“We knew about this tournament because he knew the level of competition was good, so we wanted to bring the kids because of that,” explained head coach Victor Ramirez through translator Enrique Avitia. “We are learning a lot because the level of competition is high. We are proud to be here.”
Perhaps Black Watch’s Boland summed it up best for all of the coaches and players involved with Surf Cup when he simply said, “It’s amazing. There’s really no tournament like it.”
With the great soccer action from all across the country, the large array of soccer fields at the Polo Fields where everything happens on one spot, the great Surf Cup Nike tent with tons of merchandise and let’s not forget the concessions with the ever popular and long lines for the Teriyaki Chicken bowls, Surf Cup creates long lasting memories players will cherish long into adult years.
The economic impact of Surf Cup (along with the Surf College Cup in November) is expected to be over $26 million and the city of San Diego is a big fan of the tournament.
Yes, this is a tournament players, coaches, families and fans always want to come to. This is a tournament that brings top coaches and top players together to buidl opportunities for the future. It is even a tournament that inspires holding on to Championship Bags earned from the 1989 Surf Cup - see right!
Thank you Surf Cup!
Related Article: Surf Cup Champs