Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tournament review: Long Beach Mayor's Cup

My son's soccer team played this weekend in the Mayor's Cup tournament in Long Beach, Calif. Generally, the tournament ran fine, but a couple issues did bother me.

The 2013 Mayor's Cup
First, the pluses: The tournament seemed fairly well organized. Schedules were posted the Monday before, allowing time for parents to plan. The fields were set up and ready to go when we arrived. The people at the information table were helpful with a couple questions I had.

I really liked that they posted scores from the games online almost immediately.

I also liked that they allowed a comfortable 15-20 minutes between games, rather than trying to rush the next game onto the field like some tournaments do.

Now the minuses. First, they skimped on the referee coverage. All the first-round games, at least in the U10 boys division, had just a single referee. There were no assistant referees (sometimes called "linesman"), which are crucial to making accurate offside calls and out-of-bounds rulings.

 I'm a referee myself and I know that it's almost impossible for a center referee, working alone, to have a good view of offside. Not surprisingly, in the games I watched, there were several wrong offside calls (the refs seemed to be perhaps overzealous, blowing their whistles for almost anything that could have been offside) and some bad out-of-bounds calls.  I don't blame the refs; they were placed in an untenable position. It bothers me that a tournament where we've paid a substantial entry fee doesn't have full referee crews.

In the semifinals and finals, they did have three-person referee crews, but in the games I saw, the ARs were kids around the age 12-14.  While I like to see kids getting referee experience, they should do it in recreational games, not in the semifinals or finals of a tournament. While I have seen youth referees who are very good, the ones in this tournament showed their inexperience.

My other concern is that the teams were just not evenly matched. In our bracket, there were games that ended with scores of 10-0, 7-1 and 8-1 (two games). Out of 10 total games, only three were decided by two goals or fewer. The results were similar in a separate U10 boys grouping.

In any sport, the competition is most fun and rewarding for everyone when the teams are evenly matched. A blowout isn't good for anyone.

Still, I'm not sure what a tournament organizer can do about this. In this tournament, they had two U10 boys brackets and seemed to make some effort to place some of the obviously better teams into the same bracket.  But it wasn't enough.  Somehow they need to do a better job of matching up teams of similar abilities.  


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