Everywhere you stepped on Saturday afternoon you came in contact with soccer players. They came in all shapes and sizes and different ages.
Sixty-two boys and girls teams, comprised of approximately 1,100 kids from Northern Nevada and California, descended on the Edmonds Sports Complex for the annual Capital Classic, the last spring competition for both competitive and house teams.
Teams competed in pool play on Saturday and will play today with championship games in the various age brackets set to start at 1:20 p.m.
"This event is a fun end-of-the-year wrap-up tournament," said Joe Briggs, who ran the tournament for three years and is coaching the 14-and-under Carson Patriots boys team. John [Chavez, current tournament director] has done a good job of getting out-of-state teams. In the previous years, we had a lot of local teams here."
And, according to Chavez, those out-of-state teams have fared very well in past tournaments. In fact, it raised the skill level of the whole tournament each year. The tournament has grown from 51 to the present 62 teams.
"California teams like to come here because they know they have a chance to win," said Chavez, who is in his third and last year running the annual event. "They know Northern Nevada teams aren't as strong."
Chavez pointed out that two of the best out-of-state teams are the San Jose Oro and the Fresno Chivas. Both are favored to win their respective pools in the Under-14 division, and Chavez admitted he expects a Chivas-Oro championship game. The Chivas blanked the SMSC Coyotes 3-0 in their opening game, while the San Jose Oro pounded Ebbetts Pass 13-3 and then beat Sage Brush Soccer Club Arsenal.
Briggs' Patriots lost 1-0 to the Chivas, but still qualified for the semis. The Patriots will play San Jose Oro today.
Another strong California team is the Elk Grove Storm, an Under-11 squad. The Storm pounded Carson Valley Elements United 9-0 in its opening game.
"They came here expecting to win," Chavez said. "I would expect that because they are very good. We have strong teams and we have weak teams. We have a good mix of teams. Bishop is very strong. They brought seven teams. They have a population of under 4,000 and 800 kids are in the soccer program.
"All the kids play, that's what they do. Their current commissioner is a very good coach. He's worked with all the kids. They have a strong program. Their under-12 girls team is very strong."
One reason for the success of Northern California teams is the weather. Teams in California can play nine months of the year. And Northern Nevadans? Heck, you never know with the weather around the area.
"A lot of California teams can start practice in the winter," Chavez said. "Our teams don't start until the fields are available [cleared of snow]."
Two of the better Northern Nevada teams in the tournament are Carson United and the Sidewinders, both in the under-10 girls division. United won its opener 7-0 and the Sidewinders squeezed past NV Thunder.
Nevada teams are getting better and Chavez credits Jeff Cade, who is part of the Olympic Development Program, for improvement in local programs. Chavez said that he has asked Cade to work with his squad in Carson City.
The tournament is big for the soccer community and the city, too. The tournament brings in approximately $600,000 to the city coffers with meals, gas and hotel expenses, according to Chavez.
"We load up the hotels here, and then people usually look at Gardnerville or Reno after that," Chavez said.
Chavez said that it takes a lot of work to put on a tournament, and he points out the relationship between the Capital Soccer Club and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).
"We [AYSO-Capital soccer] have a symbiotic relationship," Chavez said.
- Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281