Monday, January 19, 2015

Soccer tournament review: Temecula Valley Shootout

The Temecula Valley of California, located about two hours southeast of Los Angeles, is a nice place to hold a youth soccer tournament in January. Unlike the roasting temperatures of summer, January in Temecula features coolish mornings and comfortably warm afternoons.

Even if you have no interest in soccer, Temecula is a nice spot for a weekend getaway, with plenty of dining options, wine tours and a fun Old Town shopping area dressed up in faux-Western motif.

These lures could be why the 2015 Temecula Valley Shootout soccer tournament attracted an ample 109 teams from around Southern California for two days of competition.
Action in the Temecula Valley Shootout

Unfortunately, popularity does not necessarily make a great soccer tournament. In fact, in this case, it may have worked against it. The 2015 Temecula Valley Shootout was too big, had too many venues and ended with too many champions.

The best tournaments are located at a single site with multiple fields, offering a festive atmosphere amid non-stop soccer action. Kids and parents can hang out all day, meet up with friends from different teams and see various levels of soccer.

If a tournament can't be fit into a single site, having two or three sites is a decent second option.  But the Temecula Valley Shootout went far in the other direction  it was spread across 18 different venues, many of them just single fields.

Some teams had games at as many as three different venues, so parents spent much of the weekend driving from place to place. To many participants, the Shootout seemed less like a tournament and more like a series of disconnected individual games.

To be fair, the tournament had plenty of positives. Schedules were nicely posted a week ahead of time so parents could plan. The volunteers I spoke to were all friendly. Those teams that had the pleasure of playing at Birdsall Park had it best that facility features four beautiful synthetic turf fields in a wonderful setting. I liked that games were full-length (for the age group).

Still, there were many signs that the tournament was just too unwieldy. Almost all the age divisions were split into two completely separate "flights"   resulting in two champions in each division. This just doesn't make sense.

 "Yay, we're the U10 girls champions of the Temecula Valley Shootout!" says one team.

 "No," says another team. "We're  the U10 girls champions of the Temecula Valley Shootout."

There were too many four-team flights where, after a complete round-robin, the final was simply a rematch featuring the 1st and 2nd place teams. That's weak the championship should feature a new challenge for teams that have earned it. Strangely, three age divisions that featured two four-team flights did not do the obvious: Have the winner of each flight play off for the championship.

Weirdest of all was that one flight in U11 boys had only three teams (while the other flight had six).  In the three-team flight, the team that beat the two others on Saturday had to wait all day Sunday before playing the winner of a rematch of the other two for the "championship."

Tournament organizers need to create a structure to create a single champion for each division, perhaps by limiting the size of the field.

One other oddity. Players on each championship team received medals.That's nice. But curiously, the medals do not mention the tournament name anywhere. All they say is "Temecula Valley Hawks," the team hosting the tournament.

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