Loudoun College Soccer Showcase sees growth after three years, looks to continue evolving
By Dave Ungrady
Dozens of top boys and girls clubs from the eastern United States recently took part in the third Loudoun College Soccer Showcase.
Dr. Tom Martin, entering his 29th season as the men’s coach at James Madison University, considers the Loudoun showcase one of his favorites.
“They go above and beyond other events,” said Martin, who has attended several hundred showcases since the early 1980s. “It’s run really well. They’ve got the right people managing it. And I can see it only getting better.”
The Loudoun College Soccer Showcase took place February 28 through March 2 at three locations in Northern Virginia, including Loudoun Soccer Park and Evergreen Sports Park, located a few miles apart in Leesburg.
Soccer showcase tournaments, which number more than 100 in the United States, are set up to promote players from ages U15 to U19 to college coaches in a competitive environment. Some of the bigger tournaments, such as the Disney College Showcase in Florida, attract some 700 teams.
With its 66 teams, the Loudoun showcase promotes convenience. All games were played on an artificial surface, preventing potential scheduling conflicts due to weather, and site locations reduce travel times between venues.
“Some of these tournaments have gotten so big I spend half my time in a car,” said Martin. “At Loudoun, I can see a lot of kids in a short period of time.”
The Loudoun College Soccer showcase evolved from an event started by Loudoun coach Randy May “about seven or eight years ago,” he said. May organized games at Word of Grace with the U16 Loudoun Hotshots and the U17 Loudoun Legends, promoting the team’s players to about 10 college coaches.
As Loudoun Soccer’s Director of College Placement, May later helped organize the first Loudoun Soccer Showcase in 2012 with 16 teams, split evenly between boys and girls. “One of the first tasks we discussed when we started our technical board at Loudoun Soccer more than three years ago was to establish a college showcase,” he said. “The first year, it was a test run to understand how to run a tournament.”
Steigerwald, Gordon and Koch Wealth Advisors, a wealth management company based in Leesburg, signed on as a presenting sponsor in 2012, and still sponsor the tournament.
Loudoun’s 2013 showcase grew to 64 teams. The 2014 tournament featured 66 teams, some from as far away as North Carolina and New York. Most were from Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area, including several top teams from Loudoun Soccer.
Diane Drake, women’s head coach at George Mason University since 2004, has recruited players from the Loudoun Showcase and embraces its approach. “For some of these tournaments, it’s all about the money,” she said. “But the Loudoun Showcase is all about what’s good for the coaches. And it’s a priority to get exposure for the kids.”
Emily Littell, a junior at Loudoun County High School and a member of the Loudoun 95G Red team coached by May, has committed to play at George Mason. Littell wanted to attend a Virginia college, and Mason coaches saw her play at the Loudoun showcase.
“It’s nice to have a home tournament in our area,” said Littell, who has played in more than a dozen showcases. “Most of the showcases we go to are in our other states.”
A challenge facing Loudoun showcase organizers is how the tournament will evolve. May would like to see the tournament expand in “a reasonable way” without offering a specific limit. “We want to use more fields in Fairfax County and have gender specific fields,” said May. “The size of the tournament will depend on available facilities and locking in turf fields.”
May has stepped down as Loudoun’s Director of College Placement to focus on his work as a teacher and coaching two elite Loudoun club teams as well as a high school team. Dave Bucciero, May’s replacement and Loudoun Soccer’s College ID Camp Director, will now manage the tournament’s future.
“We feel we have developed a quality, destination type tournament,” said May.