Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Soccer tournament review: Christmas Classic in Torrance

There aren't a lot of places in the country where you can hold an outdoor soccer tournament in mid-December.

But the weather was just about perfect at the 2013 AYSO Christmas Classic, held Decenber 21 and 22 in Torrance, California.

Oh sure, it was a little chilly for the Southern Californian parents on the sidelines, some of whom actually had to dig a jacket out of the closet. But for the players, the temperatures in the low and mid-60s were ideal. They could give their all. Overheating was not a concern.
Action at the 2013 Christmas Classic

My son's team played, and I reffed, in this tournament. I came away with a mixed impression. The Christmas Classic is good, but could be better in certain areas.

One issue concerned me before the tournament even started: Game schedules were not released until the Tuesday afternoon before the competition. That's less than four days before the games began.

When you're dealing with hundreds of families that need to plan their lives, four days notice is not enough. I'd say a good standard for tournaments is to have schedules posted a week ahead of time.

The tournament is spread over six locations in Torrance. I was only at one, Columbia Park, so my review is limited to that. But Columbia Park was the main venue, hosting U8, U12, and U14 games.

Columbia Park is a nice and very large park, and games were spread across it.  One U12 field had grass that was way too long, while another seemed to have little living grass at all, but otherwise I'd say most of the fields I saw were in good shape.

The two U12 boys fields were plenty large, which I liked, because some tournaments shrink fields so they can cram more games in. But those fields did have some slope to them. It wasn't terrible, but it looked to me like they could have slightly reduced the slope on one field by shifting it to one side. Most of the other fields I saw looked fairly level.

The U8 fields were rather small. They're going to be smaller than those of the bigger divisions, of course, but they were definitely not as large as the U8 fields that my local AYSO league uses.

The fields were all lined and set up when we arrived for our first game. The check-in process went fairly smoothly. Parking wasn't a problem for those who arrived early but some people getting there later had to park a few blocks away.

As a tournament only for American Youth Soccer Orgnization teams, the Christmas Classic used parent-referees (parents ref other games, not their own child's).  While no one is ever totally happy with referees, I think this worked fine in this case (of course, I'm one of the refs).

All games that I saw had a full three-person referee team -- even, amazingly, the U8 games.

The Christmas Classic doesn't have full-length games in the round-robin portion. U12 teams, for instance, played 25 minute halves rather than 30, and U14 played 30-minute halves instead of 35.  This is not the only tournament that does this sort of thing, but I feel cheated by it.

The logic of it, though, is inescapable: By shortening games, tournament organizers can get more teams into the tournament and make more money.

I was disappointed that no game results were posted online; that's clearly an area where the tournament can improve. They did post a list of top teams in each division afterward.

All the players got a nice-looking t-shirt for participation.

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