As always, these are just my opinions based on research, experience and feedback from friends- I am by no means an expert. I also only have girls so this may be different for boys!
In youth soccer, Thanksgiving weekend is prime time for College Showcases. Showcases are different from tournaments and are specifically designed for college coaches to see players- usually one game is scheduled per day and there are no finals or trophies. Tournaments publish lists of the college coaches that will be attending and teams bring pamphlets with information about the players to hand out to coaches that may be watching. Thanksgiving weekend is also the last weekend before the high school break so it is the last hoorah of the calendar year for the older teams.
In Southern California, traditionally the Surf College Cup in San Diego has been the gold standard for Thanksgiving showcases, with November Nights cleverly designed to take advantage of games under the lights as well as the Nomads and Albion Showcases. This year there was a new contender in town, or more accurately, out of town, the Silverlakes College Showcase in Norco.
Although we are in a drought here in Southern California, the rain is often an issue this time of year and can have a big impact on these tournaments. They are expensive and a rain out is especially a bummer for teams who have come from out of town and spent a lot of money on hotels.
Oceanside (Northern San Diego county)
Surf College Cup is a prestigious, well oiled machine with over 500 top college coaches in attendance and for the last few years has been at the giant, relatively new Oceanside So Cal Complex. There is a fun and exciting atmosphere with the big tent, coach VIP areas, music and lots of great ($$$$) merchandise. Last year BSG’s team played a certain florescent ECNL team and there were many high level college coaches (Pac 12 etc…) watching our game. In addition to the college showcases for the older teams, Surf Cup also has a seperate tournament for the younger teams that is spread throughout San Diego county.
Surf College Cup is a stay and play tournament with hotel reservations required to go through the tournament reservation process. The So Cal Complex also closes in the rain and this year the third day of play was cancelled. I did hear that they offered teams a significant partial refund so that was nice, but it would have been a lot of travel just to play two games. There is a very nice letter on their home page apologizing for the closure and stating that it is the first time in 36 years that they have had even a partial cancellation. I haven’t been to the So Cal Complex in a few months, but there is usually a lingering smell from the nearby recycling plant and although there is plenty of parking, it can be a loooong walk to your field.
Carlsbad (Northern San Diego County)
November Nights has been the choice of teams who feel they may not be accepted into Surf Cup. (Some teams play both to take advantage of double the college coach exposure) Since Surf Cup takes place during the day, many of the November Nights games are you guessed it, at night. BSG has played in this tournament twice and both times at Poinsettia Park on a converted baseball field. There are nicer turf fields at this park, but the baseball field is definitely sub par with goals that looked like the letter M. There were college coaches at our games which was nice, but it definitely is a different feel from Surf Cup.
November Nights is also a stay and play tournament with hotel reservations required. This year they did their best to have the games go on in spite of the rain, but our third game was cancelled at the last minute. There was an absolute deluge of rain, but they kept saying that we would play no matter what. While the girls were warming up they got completely soaked and then 2 minutes after they got on the field to finish warm up and start the game, the city closed the field. I know it wasn’t up to the tournament and their volunteers were out there freezing as well, but once it started to pour it would have been nice if they sent us home. They did try to accommodate us and rescheduled our game for 7:30am the next morning, but both teams had already gone home and decided not to play. The games on the turf fields did play as scheduled.
This has nothing to do with the tournament itself, but during the rainstorm, our opponents from Irvine Slammers did the nicest thing. They came in with their team tent and then their parents not only moved all of our girls backpacks under the tent and out of the pouring rain, but hung up all their waterlogged jackets and sweatshirts. We were so thankful!
Norco (Riverside County)
This was the inaugural year of the Silverlakes College Showcase and with all the college showcase action usually focused in San Diego, I’m sure it was a bit of a gamble to pull this one off. But, with buy in from several large clubs including Slammers, West Coast, Legends and Beach as well as some out of town clubs, it seemed like the first year was a great success. LSG isn’t even in high school yet, so we didn’t see a lot of coaches at our games, but I’ve heard there was a great turnout at the older games. Click here for a list of the coaches.
The atmosphere was fun with big tents and a huge double decker area (you can see it in the top picture) for college coaches to watch more that one game simultaneously. They also hosted a reception to wine and dine college coaches with Jurgen Klinsmann attending (Can you say awkward conversation?? In case you don’t know, he’s the very recently fired former coach of the US men’s national team). I didn’t see it for myself, but I heard that there was cute merchandise at relatively reasonable prices.
Silverlakes College Showcase is NOT a stay and play tournament and is within driving distance to Los Angeles and Orange County making it an attractive choice for local teams who don’t want to pay for a hotel. Norco is fine, but it’s not even close to the same type of destination as San Diego for out of town teams. (Although it is pretty close to Disneyland and other attractions) Silverlakes is an amazing complex with 20+ fields and great parking but most importantly this year, it stayed OPEN for all the games even with the rain. I was sure that our Sunday game was going to be cancelled, but all games were played as scheduled. Although some of the parking lots were mud pits and it was really cold, the fields were in amazingly great condition considering the amount of rain. I was impressed.
Did you attend any of the college showcases? What did you think? Will your team make a change next year? Did you get rained out? Will it ever rain again?