Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, both in player participation and fan interest.
And some of the top youth soccer players from the Southeast and Midwest converged to the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex for the 2013 Tennessee Cup over the Labor Day holiday weekend.
“It’s kind of in a second stage of development,” said Scott Spencer, president of the Premier Soccer Services. “In the past 25 years, it’s been a huge boom in participation. Now, we see a lot more fan interest not just in the World Cup, but in the European leagues and Major League Soccer. It’s a true major sport in terms of participation and fan interest.”
Teams, totalling 235, from all over the South and Midwest traveled to Murfreesboro for the event, while the two local soccer organizations – the Murfreesboro Soccer Club and the Stones River Football Club – also made the short trip to compete for the title.
Boys and girls teams from ages under nine all the way under 19 showed off their foot skills for the fans in attendance. This weekend proved that you might see these players compete on the next level either on the high school, collegiate or even professional ranks.
“We are looking to develop an elite soccer tournament for the Midwest and the South,” Spencer said. “This is our second year in Murfreesboro, and we are really excited about it. It’s an opportunity for teams from the Midwest to play teams from the South. All of the factors came together, and I am really happy to be here.”
Most youth soccer games consist of, mostly, kicking the ball around, and there is no real movement from end to end. However, when I saw these players in action, I could tell they were serious about soccer. Especially one local team, the Stones River Football Club 03 Rapids, which is a boys under 11 team, which played its first match of the weekend against the Tennessee Soccer Club 03 Elite Soccer squad.
The skills these players showed throughout the match were unlike anything I had ever seen, especially at this age group. These players used crisp passing, pinpoint shot accuracy, and shutdown defense to defeat their opponents easily 8-1.
“The performance is only in practice, and these guys worked hard,” Head coach Jorge Graniel said. “These guys improved a lot, and you see how these guys play. These guys like to work, and I am very proud of them. I’m been coaching them for two years now.”
In the win, the SRFC team got a hat trick from Richie Akatue, which included a beautiful header off a corner kick for the last goal of the match.
“I could see the ball coming, and once I saw the ball in the air, and I jumped up,” a very excited Akatue said after the win. “It went in the net.”
Other goal scorers in the match included two goals from Omar Arradi, and one apiece from Ben Sneed, Jorge Graniel Jr. and Angel Solis. Goalkeeper Bryson Pratt made several great saves, and he only gave up a goal off a free kick late in the match.
The team finished 2-1 during group play and was second in its group. On Monday, SRFC won the consolation match against Javanon 03 Boys Red 6-1.
Their SRFC teammates in the under 12 boys division took home a couple titles during the tournament. The SRFC 02 Rapids White team won the Bronze division with an impressive 3-1 record, while the SRFC 02 Rapids won the under 12 boys silver title with an undefeated 4-0 record.
While the MSC Lady Strikers 03 Blue team placed well in the under 11 gold division with a 1-3 record, while its teammates the MSC Lady Strikers 03 White team also finished with a 1-3 record in the under 11 silver division.