Tournament Q&A: Pete Cinalli and Jono Rollins discuss Washington Invitational
The Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association will host its second Washington Invitational youth tournament in August. The girls weekend is scheduled for August 16 and 17 and the boys are scheduled for August 23 and 24. Senior contributor Dave Ungrady recently talked with FASA executive director Pete Cinalli and tournament director Jono Rollins about the tournament’s evolution and goals.
What are the main differences between the tournament and its predecessor, the Fredericksburg Cup?
Pete Cinalli: We felt we wanted to expand and and make it a much larger event. It had always seemed more of a local tournament, and we wanted to make it more regional, expand the number of teams and the level of competition, and draw from a wider spectrum outside of the state, into such states as North Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia. We wanted to increase our competition, We had a mix of premier level travel teams but we wanted to get elite level teams as well. Our new field complex (FASA Park) was a big part of this. With the complex coming online last year, and with the Virginia Youth Soccer Association complex coming online by next year, we feel we are going to have incredible facilities.
Is there any concern about what would happen to teams that are not as high quality and would not have a tournament to play in?
Cinalli: We spend a lot of time to make sure the brackets were highly competitive based on the level of each team. We wanted to make sure the teams came here and got quality matches. In the past, we had mostly middle level teams. Now we’ve got the middle level teams and we’re trying to get more elite level teams.
Jono Rollins: We spend about a week or two, calling coaches to figure out the skill level of each team, so we could make the best brackets possible. We made sure there is an A level bracket and B level bracket.
What fields did you have to work with before the tournament was expanded?
Cinalli: We felt we had really good fields. We have Patriot Park and Dixon Park, which are all Bermuda fields, and the (Fredericksburg) Field House, which is a turf field. The issue was it limited the number of teams we could bring in. We had to either turn people away or go to secondary level fields, which we did not want to do. Now we have 20 plus quality Bermuda or turf fields all within a 10-minute drive of each other.
Upon completion of the VYSA Park, you will have another nine fields, correct?
Cinalli: Yes. When you get up to mid-30s with fields, you can do some incredible things.
How will getting access to the VYSA fields affect the tournament and it’s mission and goals?
Cinalli: Because of our complex and the way it is set up, we’ve discussed adding a college showcase type element.
Rollins: Ultimately, big picture, I want to bring in college teams to play exhibition games or do scrimmages while our tournament is going on to give players in our tournament an idea what it’s like to play on a college team and to see competition that some of the kids might not be able to during the season. It also gives coaches from those schools that come in the chance to see the youth players play. We’re trying to get one for the boys weekend this year. The hope is that next year we will have it set it stone for every year.
Cinalli: We did have college coaches attend the event last year from division one and division two teams so we already have a minor college showcase element for recruiting.
How does tournament expansion benefit your club?
Cinalli: The exposure and getting additional clubs. A lot of the clubs we already do trades with. We may send a group of teams to a quality tournament and they may reciprocate and send some clubs to us.
How does the tournament benefit the club financially?
Cinalli: The plan at this point is that the funds that come out of the tournament support the field complex. One of the points of building the complex was to expand our ability to host this type of event, which will help us maintain the complex. We just broke ground on our bathroom and pavilion facility. That will be complete and ready for the tournament this year. The tournament will help fund ongoing improvements and keep the fields a top quality level. We may add an additional tournament If it continues to go well.
Are there plans to rent the field for other tournaments?
Cinalli: It is something we will consider as we move forward.
Have you been able to quantify the tournament’s growth?
Rollins: I was able to double teams competing from the year before. Last year we had 65 girls teams and 79 boys teams.
What are your goals long term?
Rollins: We want to have a quality tournament. That’s everybody’s goal. With our central location, we’d like to see a quality number of our teams come on a consistent basis. When coaches sit down and decide what tournament they are going to, that the first thing they think about is the Washington Invitational.
Cinalli: Probably doubling our teams is certainly something we would like to shoot for. If we shoot to double it and get 50 percent growth, that would be great.
Why work with Chesterfield (United Football Club)?
Cinalli: Knowing them for many years, we saw what they did with their Ultimate Cup tournament. They focus on mainly the marketing of our tournament and we handle all the operations of the tournament.
What is it about your tournament that makes it different from others?
Cinalli: Many tournaments with a couple of hundred teams are spread out about an hour and a half apart. With our tournament, we are talking about no more than 20 minutes from one game to the other on certain fields. Our central location in this state is helpful and it’s easy access to Route 95. Plus, you’re only 45 minutes away from Washington, DC. From a tournament perspective, it’s our passion to make sure your team gets a quality experience so they don’t come in and win games 15-0 and that you don’t lose games 15 -0. We want people feeling good about their decision.
Rollins: With our tournament in August, it is a pre-season event, Coaches can see where their team stands and and it gives them an edge to see what they need to work on.