Commentary

Youth soccer scheduling starts in various ways amid uncertainty across a pandemic-hit nation

As we hit autumn in this pandemic year, we can’t tell who’s going to play soccer because we can’t tell who else is going to play soccer.

Teams are waiting for league schedules. Leagues are waiting to see how many teams are entering. Teams are waiting for players to commit. Players are either sitting out or scrambling to make sure the team they choose is actually playing.

On the last point, at least one organization has put together a league for stranded college players. EDP, which runs along the Atlantic coast from Virginia northward, will have a U-23 league catering to those who will not be playing on campus this fall. New Jersey club SJEB Rush jumped at the chance and will let athletes balance their soccer and school with two training sessions a week.

EDP has been busy. The organization also administers several U.S. Youth Soccer National League conferences, along with a few tiers of regional play, and the schedules are finally available. Other conferences are still struggling -- as of Friday, the Sunshine Conference (Florida) had not posted schedules. Neither has the Pacific Conference, which draws its teams from restriction-laden California. Neither has the Northwest Conference.

No one could fairly blame the league organizers of administrative sloth. They’re trying to sort out a situation that has all the moving parts of a Swiss watch with none of the precise predictability.

In some cases, league administrators have to figure out who’s available.

“Most of our National League Conference competition is team-based, so the clubs participating in the Conferences each season depend on which teams apply, qualify and/or are selected,” said U.S. Youth Soccer communications manager Ryan Loy.

Loy said the Pacific Conference is planning to schedule games as soon as they’re able -- hopefully this fall but maybe in 2021.

Even within a particular state, restrictions may vary by locality and may not make sense at first glance. Montgomery County, Maryland -- home to large clubs such as Bethesda SC -- lists soccer as a “medium-risk” sport but has an asterisk saying it can restart in Phase 3, while other medium-risk sports get the green light in Phase 2.

Little wonder some authorities are resigned to a bit of border-hopping:

“Those registered players who wish to travel to other states for competitions are welcome to do so as long as they're complying with the COVID-19 advisories issued by that state or locality’s governing authority,” Louisiana Soccer Association president Sean Esker wrote on Aug. 3.

In some cases, schedules may exist even if they’re not posted. And some organizations are following the old cliche of going one game at a time, or at least one weekend at a time. U.S. Youth Soccer’s Piedmont Conference had posted games for Aug. 22-23 in Georgia and Sept. 5-7 in South Carolina, then waited to post schedules for subsequent weeks because of the possibility that a Sept. 26-27 weekend slate in North Carolina might not happen.

Legendary baseball commentator Vin Scully is credited with the most succinct commentary on uncertainty. After reading an injury report saying a player was “day-to-day,” he quipped, “Aren’t we all?”

Day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. The only thing certain for the rest of 2020 is uncertainty.

5 comments about "Youth soccer scheduling starts in various ways amid uncertainty across a pandemic-hit nation".
  1. P T, August 25, 2020 at 2:08 p.m.

    It seems that EDP is trying to have both ways in terms of their fall season without seriously considering the ramifications of a health-care risk. It doesn't make sense; this is from SJEB's website: "With the majority of NCAA and Junior College Fall seasons being cancelled EDP are running a U23 Mens and Womens League for players to play during the Fall season. EDP soccer will offer both Male and Female U23 Leagues in multiple states to provide a competitive solution for college soccer players."  In essence - since it is not safe for the NCAA and JC they will proceed full steam ahead with tryouts at clubs that have almost comical locations: Tuckahoe Turf Farm, 599 Union Rd, Hammonton, NJ, 08037
    (Drive down the dirt road along the tree line to the goals in the distance). 

    Maybe they should have learned from others and focused on training or competitions in small bubbles. 

  2. Beau Dure, August 25, 2020 at 2:13 p.m.

    EDP hosts a ton of events at Tuckahoe. Nothing new there.

  3. P T replied, August 26, 2020 at 12:27 p.m.

    Apologies for my snarky comment.

  4. John Molnar-Suhajda, August 27, 2020 at 5 p.m.

    Let the judicial system prosecute criminals. Soccer players should play soccer. For my protest I am cancelling my streaming subsciption of MLS games.

  5. John Kukitz replied, August 27, 2020 at 5:14 p.m.

    well said!

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