Before things got hectic on the MLS docket Saturday night, the Insider had a chance to cruise out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the 2012 edition of MLS ¡Futbolito!, the official 4v4 tournament of Major League Soccer held annually in cities all over the country.
The idea around the event? In short, bring a bunch of soccer people together, pace out some fields, put down small goals, roll out the balls and stir until ready. 164 squads ended up making their way out to Queens on Saturday, boys and girls ranging in age from U-8s to grown-ups, and everyone enjoyed themselves just the same.
Here are a few of our observations while we were out there:
1. Bring your kit or stay home. It seemed like every team--regardless of age or division--was outfitted in some sort of matching kit. If you didn't know better you might have thought it was a mini-FIFA Club World Cup. Boca Juniors, Sao Paulo, Marseille, Real Madrid, New York Red Bulls, D.C. United. Added a lot to the vibe.
2. Young girls in Messi shirts are cute. A team of girls sporting t-shirts that either had 'Messi', 'Ronaldo' or 'Neymar' on the back provided the cutest image of the afternoon, and perhaps ever. They were accompanied by a junior version of the Paraguayan national team, kitted out head-to-toe. Watching the Paraguayans practice set pieces under the guidance of their manager/older sister was pure entertainment, for sure.
3. People like to watch. For the adult premier division matches, pretty much every field was lined with friends and family providing "atmosphere" to the proceedings. By atmosphere, we mean cheering, oohing, aahing, and giving the refs a piece of their minds -- sometimes very big pieces of their minds. Made sense since there was a pretty hefty cash prize on the line for the winners, which was eventually the NY Golden Eagles who managed to score 45 goals in seven matches on their way to the title.
4. A stadium might look very good out here. This year's event was held on Field 9 of the park, which sits just across the Van Wyck Expressway from the potential stadium site for a second New York City MLS club. A lot needs to happen before that, of course, but it was fun to think about all the players, their families, and their friends coming here for an entirely different soccer experience someday.