One of the largest and most prominent elite youth soccer tournaments begins this weekend in Richmond, Va., as the Jefferson Cup kicks with the boys’ competition.
In more than 30 years, the tournament has established itself as one of the top destinations for youth soccer teams across the country. This weekend will be no different, as 364 teams will be represented in the Richmond area starting on Friday.
Being able to offer that kind of competition is one of many reasons the tournament has been able to maintain a high profile across the youth soccer circuit.
“I think that it’s a pretty broad base of competition,” tournament director Chris Friant said. “We’re not just catering to teams out of Virginia and the Northeast. We have teams from 26 different states on the boys’ weekend, as far west as California, south with Texas, Louisiana [and] Florida. We have the Midwest teams also.
“That appeals to a lot of people – to be able to come and play teams they can’t normally play, and that’s what we go out and try to do.”
The tournament kicks off at 9 am ET Friday morning, earlier than usual after heavy rains hit the Richmond area.
The competition is run by the Richmond Strikers, whose Development Academy club will face Virginia Rush AJ Auxerre on Saturday as part of the showcase. While that is the only representation the Development Academy will have, there are teams from ages 12 through 18, of various skill levels, who will all get a chance to play.
Because of the tournament’s size, 10 different fields are required for use in order to accommodate the number of games needed. Along with that, hotel rooms will be clogged to the gills.
Friant said that the effort get the city more and more involved each year is a continuing effort.
“We try to bill this event not only as a Richmond Striker event, but this is a city of Richmond event,” he said. “We’re slowly getting more and more businesses and more and more of the community to buy into that.”
The sheer amount of youth players also makes the event a haven for college coaches. Prior to Friday’s kickoff, 140 coaches were pre-registered, and Friant said he expected that maybe 20 or 30 might show up unannounced.
For many aspiring college and professional players, this weekend could be their chance to be seen, and perhaps get noticed at one of the country’s biggest youth soccer tournaments.