Major Beach Soccer National Championships get underway
The second edition of the Major Beach Soccer National Championships kicked off on Saturday morning at Clearwater Beach, with four fields seeing a full day of action in the newly expanded event that saw age group and co-ed tournaments running alongside the open Men’s and Women’s Divisions.
The tournament continues on Sunday, with National Champions being crowned throughout the afternoon. The addition of new divisions, allowing young players in particular to test their skills on the sand, is the biggest update in the tournament’s second year, with USL National Technical Director and MBS founder Peter Mellor pleased to see the growth of the tournament.
“I’m hoping it gives more visibility to beach soccer in general,” Mellor said. “We’re bringing in teams from out of state, from as far as Oregon and the northeast, but this, I think, is the beginning of something that will continue to grow as the years go by. We have age groups from U14 all the way to the open division, and everybody that’s come in is already really enjoying Clearwater Beach.”
The defending women’s Open Division champions, the Peace Passers, returned to defend their title, one of a number of teams that traveled to Florida for the weekend’s event. The national flavor of the participants has come from an MBS partnership with Soccer in the Sand, which also held regional qualifiers throughout the summer as teams tried to earn their berths at the National Championships.
“Obviously Soccer in the Sand and their champions from their summer tournaments are an integral part of making this successful,” Mellor said. “Working with Chris Lemay, we hope to continue to expand that relationship and see it expand to more tournaments, and we do too from our Florida perspective. All in all, we are giving all of these players, by coming together as two organizations, the opportunity to move forward. We are also looking at other organizations that hold beach soccer events throughout the summer to see if they want to join us and be a part of the MBS National Championships.”
While it’s unlikely beach soccer will overtake the outdoor game in popularity, Mellor said he believes that playing beach soccer can be a useful tool for players as they work on their technical skills in the tricky conditions in which games are played. With 21 youth teams taking part in this year’s event, Mellor hopes the young players will learn from this weekend as they return to their clubs in the new year.
“We know that this game complements the real game, and that’s really what USL is all about, continuing to develop the technical abilities of players so that when they go off the sand and onto the grass, it’s a little easier,” Mellor said. “I always look on beach soccer, and the teams that come in, as a vacation with a soccer flavor, and that’s part of what beach soccer is. It’s great that we see families and the older guys and girls coming in and playing and having fun, and now that we’re at the National Championships, having serious fun.”