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Youth Boys Mar 08, 2011

Another massive Jefferson Cup set to kick off in Richmond this Friday

By Travis Clark

This coming weekend marks the 31st edition of the prestigious Jefferson Cup Tournament in Richmond, Va. With a talented slate of youth sides making the trip once again, this year ‘s edition promises to be just as big as previous years.

The boys’ weekend will kick off on Friday morning as youth teams from 26 states will invade the Virginia state capital to contest a three-day bonanza at 10 different sites across the region.

By bringing in such a diverse group of teams, the Richmond Strikers have managed to create and maintain a high level of competition that continues to attract a high volume of teams – this year 364 teams are registered to play.

“The main thing has been the competition. It started out that way and it’s grown and been pretty steady,” tournament director Chris Friant told Potomac Soccer Wire. “We’ve gone out to try and get the best teams to come play and then we’ve been able to maintain the level of the grass fields, and this year we now have 25 turf fields.”

Giving that many teams quality fields to play on is the other big piece of the puzzle. It’s the right time of year to attract teams from the north who may still be battling adverse weather and early enough in the season that the several fields in the area won’t be worn out and battered from heavy use.

And as those teams come in, it helps draw the teams from the south that want to play against quality competition.

“The fields this time of year are a big draw because they are in really good shape,” Friant said, “whereas teams in the Northeast are still dealing with snow and so forth, so you’re getting those teams trying to come south to be able to play outdoors.”

This year, a number of top youth clubs will attend the Jefferson Cup. Aztecs FC U-17s are coming all the way from California, Lehigh Valley U-13s from Pennsylvania, Carmel United U-16s from Indiana, and Scott Gallagher U-14s from St. Louis, just to name a few.

With that talent, especially in the ages between 16-18, college coaches became interested in the tournament in an aim to bolster recruiting efforts. Friant said that more than 140 coaches already pre-registered to attend, and that number might grow by 20-30 depending on who hasn’t already signed up.

It also helps maintain the high level of competition the tournament has earned a reputation for, and the thousands of players will be putting their best foot forward in an aim to come away with a positive performance on the field.

Friant, whose official title is Director of Tournaments for the Richmond Strikers, oversees the logistics for the Jefferson Cup weekend. With fields that stretch across four counties, it’s a tremendous effort to bring together a weekend event that has become a prominent fixture across the city.

“We are using literally 85 percent of the hotel rooms in Richmond for each weekend, so it becomes a pretty enormous feat,” he said. “We have a lot of people, a lot of different county people that help in our setup fields and coordination of different things and dealing.”

But it’s all part of keeping the tournament’s prestige, making sure the weekend runs smoothly and ensuring that the teams vying for plaudits on the field depart with the desire to return a year from now.

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