For high school and club soccer players, the arrival of spring signals the beginning of tournament season and, for many, attending the all-important college showcase tournaments. The stakes are high but it’s not bragging rights or a tournament trophy that’s on the line, these athletes are showcasing their soccer talent and skills hoping to attract the attention of the soccer coach from the college of their dreams.
College soccer showcase tournaments have rapidly grown in popularity over the past few years with major sponsorship support from companies like Under Armour, Nike, Puma, Adidas, Toyota, Gatorade, College Soccer Tours and SC Premiere Sports Management. The tournaments are designed to promote the highest levels of competition in youth soccer by drawing from the best state, regional and national level teams from all over the country. They provide college coaches a chance to evaluate young players for possible recruitment to their college teams and, for players, an important opportunity to be seen.
There are many additional benefits for soccer players attending these showcase tournaments: Exposure to top teams and players in the U.S and internationally, and to play at some of the best soccer facilities in the country. A few of the tournaments also feature great college teams playing in “friendly” or round robin games which provide young players and their families an opportunity to view a variety of elite college players and school teams in action.
The first thing to remember about college showcase soccer tournaments is that, no matter how well-run the event is, how well you play, and which coaches are present, simply showing up and playing is not nearly enough to have every division 1, II or III coach in the nation beating a path to your door. It’s important to do your homework, plan ahead and make informed choices.
Most of the top tournaments are invitational so getting accepted into the tournament may be the first obstacle a team must overcome. A little advance planning may be necessary to help your team collect the required tournament experience and points to get accepted into these tournaments. Some showcase tournaments are not truly competitive. That is, although the competition on the field may be top notch, the tournament subscribes to the ‘everyone plays’ approach to allow all the players on a team to get exposure to the college coaches. Often, there are no playoffs or finals and the team coach can choose the number of games the team will play during the tournament. This is especially good for the athletes since no one benefits from playing two games a day throughout the tournament and burning out, or possibly injuring, the athletes.
When choosing college showcase tournaments, it’s important to remember that the best ones are not necessarily the same for boys and girls. Find out which coaches will actually be attending. Coaches, not schools. Will it be the head coach, assistant coach, or a junior assistant at the tournament? Does the person attending have the power to recruit if they like what they see? Some of the top tournaments for women in the U.S. are:
Although the college coaches are not allowed, by NCAA rules, to speak directly with the athletes at these showcases, the athletes can contact the coaches directly by email or phone before the tournament to invite them to watch them play. It’s particularly important to note that college coaches expect to hear from the athletes themselves, not their parents. Contact the coaches early and update them about specifics on playing times and fields. Many of the tournaments also offer, for a fee, a player profile form for participating athletes to fill out and update for attending coaches to view.
For most college coaches, the trend for evaluating young soccer athletes has evolved from an emphasis on recruitment through high schools to club and tournament recruitment. Since most recruitment is based on play, the almost year-long club and tournament season provides coaches more time to see players in action and the showcases allow the coaches to cover more players in a shorter period of time. It’s far easier to make determinations of a player’s athleticism, size, speed, movement, technical skills, team and personal attitude at a showcase than by watching a video. But don’t forget to follow up after the tournament by providing the coaches with a well-produced highlights video, too!