Youth soccer in America is booming. There are multiple levels, tiers, and flights for teams to conquer in their quest to be on top. But who decides who is number one?
American youth soccer has become so captivating that a whole website, gotsoccer.com, has been devoted to figuring out who is the best. But standard soccer can often be slow with long stretches of passing as teams look for the chance to score. And then there’s the traveling to fields in the middle of nowhere. It might all be fun for the player as they chase their dream of being the next Carli Lloyd or Clint Dempsey, but it could be tough for the family.
This year, the inaugural Global Fives National Tournament looked to address those problems with quick and interesting five-a-side games. The competition was held last weekend at a family-friendly and picturesque location in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The Global Fives featured a style far from the standard type of soccer. The games were played on smaller fields with smaller goals making it more difficult for teams to score as goalies could more easily block shots. The matches also focused more on foot skills — like speed and passing — as players used various difficult moves and maneuvers to get by the opposition. This kind of small-field game gave players “300% more touches” compared to a standard match, according to the Global Fives.
The other thing that set the competition apart was its social media aspect. Players, families, friends, and fans could follow the Global 5s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. There was even a Snapchat filter for the tournament where participants and attendees could post pictures showing their location at the tournament. So while kids were playing hard on the field, the people the stands were competing too — not to score goals, but to take the best pictures.
But one of the most important things about the tournament was its family-friendly atmosphere. Rather than taking place at a farm in some remote location, Hoboken offered a bustling metro city area filled with fun parks and playgrounds. Games were played on fields with a spectacular view of the New York City skyline. And instead of parents milling around looking for ways to entertain themselves or their kids, they could tour a genuinely historic city, visit one of the many playgrounds, or eat at some quality restaurants. “We really worked on providing a family atmosphere here,” said Stu Sharples, director of the qualifying tournament in New Jersey, said that he was very proud of the family atmosphere provided.
A clear effort was made by organizers to create a different kind of soccer tournament. And from the style of play on the pitch to taking care of people off it, that work clearly paid off.
Winners from each age group and gender:
U8 Boys Cedar Stars
U9 Girls Blue Sisters
U9 Boys Ironbound Warriors
U10 Boys NJ Fire
U11 Boys EPD Suarez
U11 Girls Levittown Lady Galaxy
U12 Boys EPD Messi
U12 Girls – Massapequa
U13 Boys - EPD Pogba
U13 Girls - Sandwich Hurricaines
U14 Boys FCUSA New York Levittown Gunners
U14 Girls - FCUSA Coastal
U16 Boys - Hicksville Latin Boys
U16 Girls - Spirit of Liverpool
Photos: Global Fives National Tournament