Despite bad weather, Md.’s August Cup still enjoys one of its “best ever” years
By Charles Boehm
Ask any soccer tournament director in the mid-Atlantic region about their biggest fears during a late-summer event, and they’ll probably tell you it’s the threat of foul weather. The Eastern Seaboard’s muggy air often seems to be a magnet for dramatic storm fronts rolling in from Canada or the Caribbean, often prompting heavy rains and thunderheads.
The August Cup tournament, held over the final weekend of the month at the Maryland SoccerPlex and several other sites across Montgomery County, Md., saw its luck run out over the past two editions after years of mostly fine weather in its early years of existence.
A year ago the tourney, which began in 2003 and is jointly hosted by Maryland Rush Soccer Club and the Damascus Soccer Club, had to proactively cancel its Sunday schedule due to the impending arrival of the massive Hurricane Irene. And last month’s 2012 August Cup found itself dodging large thunderstorms that eventually led to the cancellation of its Sunday afternoon championship games.
“We went the eight years previous with perfect weather, but the last two years it got us,” tournament director Everett Hovencamp told Soccer Wire with a wry chuckle earlier this week. “The lightning started around noon, and started and stopped about four times. We waited a few hours, but clearly weren’t going to be able to get games in safely.”
August Cup is a GotSoccer-sanctioned event, a system which does not award rankings points to division co-champions. So calling off the championship finals forced Hovencamp and his staff to determine divison winners via tiebreaker procedures like head-to-head results in earlier rounds, goal differential and so on. This was frustrating for all parties involved, but inevitable in the end.
“Of course, everyone wants GotSoccer points, and their trophies and medals. GotSoccer won’t award any points under co-champions, so we had to do co-finalists,” explained Hovencamp. “Some people don’t like that, but once you get rained out, it’s hard to judge fairly who’s champions, even under the tiebreaker… It’s tweaked a few people, but we’ll be back. We’ll get eight more years of good weather again.”
He and his staff did find their task made much simpler by the SoccerPlex’s advanced lightning detection system, which can detect and pinpoint electrical storm activity with far more accuracy and time efficiency than traditional, fieldside methods.
“Outside it was sunny. What people couldn’t see what that there were lightning strikes five miles away,” noted Hovencamp. “We could see the radar, because they’re tied in and can see lightning strikes 30 miles away on their system. We could see every one that was happening.
“Their system is unbelievable. I was amazed, I could see every lightning strike,” he added. “Normally, when referees do it manually, I believe it’s a 30-minute window where you have to wait from the last lightning or thunder. With the SoccerPlex’s system, they’ve cut it down to 15 minutes, because they can see everything around, what’s coming and what’s going. It actually speeds up the process.”
While last year’s decision to cancel the event’s Sunday slate, which Hovencamp says was influenced by Montgomery County schools beginning fall classes the next day, drew very mixed feedback, there was little debate about the lingering danger posed by this year’s storms. And he believes it was a banner year for August Cup anyway, with 280 teams entered, many of a very high level, including several state champion squads as well as Braddock Road YC 95 Elite (Va.), U.S. Youth Soccer’s Under-16 girls national champions.
BRYC 95 Elite were honored at halftime of the Celebration of Women’s Soccer, a well-attended charity match featuring many former Washington Freedom players at the SoccerPlex on August 25. August Cup partnered with that event and Hovencamp, who says he’ll return as tournament director for at least one more year and likely more, was very pleased with the results. He was also pleasantly surprised by a major jump in overall quality of this year’s August Cup entrants.
“It was a very good year for us, one of the best ever,” said Hovencamp, who hopes to gradually move as much of the tourney as possible to SoccerPlex’s fields. “We used to be a mid-level tournament, and we had state champions in here – why the drastic change, I’m not sure, but I’ll take it.”