A national title won’t be on the line during this week’s Adidas Girls Soccer Tournament of Champions, but that doesn’t mean this event isn’t full of meaning.
Starting Thursday at the Burlington RecPlex in Burlington, Iowa, 42 high school girls soccer teams representing five states will compete in a series of tournaments that can earn the winners a place among the nation’s elite. For some, it is a second chance at a national ranking. For others, it’s a rare platform to prove they are worthy against out-of-state competition.
This is the ninth annual ToC, and five of the previous eight events featured the reigning SIMA FAB 50 No. 1 team. This year, only No. 42 St. Charles North (St. Charles, Ill.) and No. 50 Collinsville (Collinsville, Ill.) enter the event with a SIMA FAB 50 ranking. Five other participating teams have been in the FAB 50 this season and four others have been regionally ranked. Had it not been for an untimely loss or tie, as many as nine teams might have entered this event ranked in the SIMA FAB 50.
Here are five things to watch:
1. FORMAT: The event has four eight-team tournament brackets and two mixers. Overall, six champions will be crowned, but the national focus will be placed on the Greater Burlington Partnership and Heartland Lodge & Resort brackets, where eight of the 16 teams are or have been in the SIMA FAB 50 this season. Ankeny Centennial (Ankeny, Iowa), Collinsville (Collinsville, Ill.), Lee's Summit West (Lee’s Summit, Mo.) and St. Charles North are the favorites in the Greater Burlington Partnership bracket. St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.), Visitation Academy (St. Louis, Mo.) and Divine Savior-Holy Angels (Milwaukee, Wis.) are favored in the Heartland bracket.
2. ILLINOIS DOMINANCE: Only eight of the 30 Illinois schools that have participated in the ToC have a losing record. Amazingly, Collinsville is one of those with an all-time mark of 1-5. By contrast, St. Charles North has reached the final every year it has played at the ToC, which included a run of three straight titles from 2009-2011. Since there are so many top-ranked teams from neighboring states, a tournament title by any Illinois school — even though none are in the state Top 10 — will simply bolster any already opinion of Illinois high school soccer.
3. IOWA ANGLE: A change in Iowa high school sports rules a few years ago means the ToC — as long as it’s played in Iowa — can only invite schools of Iowa’s border states. Despite the event’s location, only 11 Iowa schools have ever participated in the event that has featured 78 schools since its inception in 2007. West Des Moines Valley (West Des Moines, Iowa), however, is the only school to participate every year. Assumption (Davenport, Iowa), a longtime small-school power, is making its ToC debut this year.
4. QUICK TURNAROUND: Quality depth likely will be key in the Greater Burlington bracket. Teams in this group play their first-round match Friday afternoon with the second-round and placement contests both held Saturday before 1:30 p.m. The group champion here will have to pull off three quality wins in less than 24 hours.
5. FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Meg Brandt, Ankeny Centennial (Iowa): Brandt has seven goals and two assists to tie for team-high in goals and points. The junior has committed to Nebraska.
Hannah Brobst, Visitation Academy (Mo.): The Iowa signee will play her first high school matches this year in her future state. Despite playing a defensive role, Brobt is tied for third on the team in goal scoring.
Jada Dayne, Waunakee (Waunakee, Wis.): Daughter of former NFL standout and 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, turned heads as a sophomore at this event last year. Now a junior, Dayne has committed to Michigan.
Jamie Kutey, St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.): The Marquette signee seems to be worth a goal per match for the Saints. She’s No. 3 on Aquinas’ all-time scoring list and No. 1 is within reach.
Aleksandra Mihailovic, Lemont (Lemont, Ill.): The New Mexico-bound sharpshooter is coming off a recent three goal performance in Lemont’s 4-0 win over Tinley Park in a key league match last week. The win moved Lemont to 8-1-2 this season.
Image credit: SoccerSTL.net