Youth soccer is back in the United States.
Well, at least in Utah players returned to the soccer fields earlier this month for the 2020 State Championship. The competition was held for the girls teams in the U16-U19 age groups. Avalanche took home the championship in the U16 and U18 age groups. Utah Celtic won in the U17 age group. La Roca FC won the title in the U19 age group.
Despite the lack of regional or national events, Utah Youth Soccer still wanted to hold the annual event. With the national leagues (Girls Development Academy, ECNL, etc.) shut down for the season, all of the clubs were able to participate for the first time in nearly a decade. Many of the teams were playing up an age group and some college players appeared for local clubs in the U19 age group.
“It was a great event. Everyone was able to showcase their abilities, strengths, and individual talents,” La Roca FC Board Member and Coach Matt Walbruch told TopDrawerSoccer. “Truly fun to see.”
The State Championship kicked off on July 6 and wrapped up with the championship games on July 11.
The week-long event brought out the top clubs in the state and saw some top youth players return to the field for competition for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak shutdown youth sports in March.
"It was amazing for coaches to be back on the field," Caitlin Young, the Executive Director at Utah Celtic FC, told TopDrawerSoccer. "It brought normalcy to life again! Our world is dealing with so much uncertainty and the realm of sports is being greatly impacted, but a youth soccer game at State Cup made life feel normal again, even if it was just for our 90 minute game."
Utah’s been more open than most states recently as the governor moved the state to the yellow zone (low risk) in May, which allowed youth teams to practice again.
The State Championship in July allowed unlimited spectators for the games.
“Coaches were to wear masks when they coached the kids and hand sanitizer was everywhere,” Walbruch told TopDrawerSoccer. “Teams and parents were on opposite sides of the field and social distancing was encouraged.”
Young added that there were field marshalls at every field to help enforce these rules. There was also no sharing of food or drink.
The responsibility and trust in the parents and players helped the event go off without a hitch according to coaches. The teams were also tasked with being diligent and responsible leading up to the event. One team was forced to withdraw from the State Championship due to a positive test the Sunday before the event, according to Walbruch.
The rest of the event went off without a hitch, which has coaches believing that there will be more tournaments in the near future in Utah.
“Many states reached out to Utah Youth Soccer Association to find out how they were able to, what they did,” Walbruch said. “Our governor is very supportive of youth sports and getting back to normal. It was great to be able to play and get the youth doing what they love. Playing soccer.”
"My takeaway was that the kids NEED sports," Young said. "With extra precautions we can make it possible for them to continue to participate in an environment that helps them learn and flourish into successful individuals."
TopDrawerSoccer, and Advanced Sports Media, recommend following the guidelines of your local health officials to stop the spread of COVID-19. Please take precautions and practice social distancing whenever possible so we can get back to playing again!