Youth soccer tournament play resumes with some significant changes -- get in, play a couple of quick games, get out

Colleges and high schools are wrestling with difficult decisions about how and when to play sports with COVID-19 still running rampant in the United States.

But youth sports are already back on the field.

EDP, the Northeastern organization that runs several U.S. Youth Soccer regional conferences and many other layers of leagues, held some weekend tournaments this month. Sort of.

The EDP Memorial Day Classic, played July 12-13 despite the name, was not your typical weekend of packing up for a hotel stay and anxious reloading of the tournament website to see if your team made the final and might get a nice trophy for the ride home. The agenda was simple: Get in, play a couple of quick games, get out.

Teams were placed in groups of four. The master schedule gave each group a specific window to get to its pair of fields for check-in, which included a temperature check. (Remember when we had to stick thermometers under our tongues or worse? Technology is wonderful.) Play one game, ranging in length from 45 minutes for the youngest groups to 60 for the high-schoolers, trade opponents, play again. Then head home.

Most games were played Sunday, but a handful of teams repeated the process Monday morning and get a couple more short games.

The safety protocols included everything from signage to drones. The latter captured some inspiring video:

The recap of the weekend shows some potentially alarming photos of spectators going without masks, but Arundel Soccer Association coach Nicole Roventini, whose U-15 boys team made the trek up from the Maryland county alongside Chesapeake Bay, says people were doing a good job of complying:

“My parents came on the field, settled down and possibly took their masks off,” Roventini said. “They were spaced into their own families -- no need for a mask.”

EDP ran another event, EDP Cup 2020, the next weekend. SJEB Rush technical director John Thompson was impressed.

“Fields were spaced out, parents and players on opposite sides of the field, temperature checks, pre-tournament Zoom calls to go over protocols,” Thompson said. “No benches, handshakes etc. Our parents commented that they had thought of everything possible, very professionally run. All parents and players cooperated and were respectful of the situation we all find ourselves living in.”

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For guidelines and best practices for WHEN AND IF your local authorities have deemed it safe to return to the field, check out U.S. Soccer's PLAY ON home page HERE.

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Cancellations are still going to be a fact of life. St. Louis club Lou Fusz Athletic called off its summer invitational scheduled for July 17-19.

“Our tournament was canceled due to excessive heat with heat indexes in the 105+ range and because we were responding proactively to our County Executive's directive to move youth sports from our Phase 4 (allows competition) to Phase 1 (individual practices) as of Monday 7/20/20,” said LFA club administrator Chrissie Reiss.

Expecting a regular season isn’t realistic at this point. Travel restrictions are popping up in various states and municipalities. As the LFA experience shows, a change in virus prevalence can force everyone off the field.

And that’s the frustrating part. Organizers can do all they want to prepare. If we aren’t doing what we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, that preparation won’t be enough to get your team back on the field.

At the risk of preaching, please take this seriously. According to my doctor’s assessment and an antibody test, I got this disease in March, before we all went into lockdown and started wearing masks. My case wasn’t as bad as some of my colleagues who wound up in the hospital and on a ventilator, but I may still have some residual lung damage. If I can referee any games this fall, I’ll take U-9 and U-10 assignments, not full-field games.

If we take this as seriously as event organizers are, maybe we can get back on the field. If not, we won’t. For a long time.

4 comments about "Youth soccer tournament play resumes with some significant changes -- get in, play a couple of quick games, get out".
  1. P T, July 26, 2020 at 12:42 p.m.

    Even though these events are outside I don't think it is time for tournaments - still too many people and too many risks - keep friendlies and eliminate parents - just have them drop off the kids and limit driving to and hour or less from a community.  As can be seen in the video there are massive number of fans and cars at these tournaments which means multiple opportunities for exposure.  I also would eliminate referees (increases the cost and risk to adult referees).  Leave refereeing to the coaches and kids. It should be about fun and not a huge production. Coaches can monitor temperatures. Clubs and tournaments that live on revenues of promoting that they have the best and most competitive group need to rethink their role which should be safety and fun. 

  2. Paul Cox, July 27, 2020 at 9:01 a.m.

    I hope your lungs are able to recover fully, Beau. Best wishes and thanks for a good writeup.

  3. James Madison, July 27, 2020 at 7:53 p.m.

    Was data collected re post-tournament infections?  If not, we have no way of knowing whether the arrangements were effective in allowing play while not creating infections.  If the data was collected, what did it show?

  4. Christopher Tierney, July 29, 2020 at 11:45 a.m.

    My thoughts are with you Beau as your body continues to mend from COVID.....good health to you and your family.

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