With the spring soccer select season about to kick off, we take a look a new state competition which will feature two local teams in its inaugural year.
In recent years, the Indiana State Cup has been the premier tournament for select soccer clubs, while the Challenge Cup has catered for second tier squads.
Now comes the addition of the Indiana Presidents Cup, a middle tier competition between the State and Challenge Cups, which is expected to result in better parity at all three levels of play.
The tournament will feature boys’ and girls’ teams from U11 to U17, with champions from U14-U17 getting the chance to represent Indiana at regional and possibly national level.
Two of the area’s squads – Southern Indiana United’s U14 Strikers and U16 Net-Surfers – will take a trip to the inaugural Indiana Presidents Cup competition, with the preliminary round taking place in Evansville and Fort Wayne from May 13-15. The finals weekend will be held from June 3-5.
SIU Strikers have been invited to play in the competition thanks to their
success last year when they made it to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
“We were originally going to do the Challenge Cup again with hopes of winning, but once we got the invite, it was hard to say no,” said Strikers’ coach Paul Duckworth. “IYSA decided to cut the State Cup participants a little, and didn’t want to overwhelm the Challenge Cup, so they created a second tier tournament, the Presidents Cup.”
There are 10 teams divided into four brackets, and Strikers find themselves in a grouping with Zionsville and Westfield Select.
“It is more of a sterner test for us than the Challenge Cup for sure, but not the stretch that it would have been participating in the State Cup,” said Duckworth.
He added that the team has been very active over the winter months, training twice a week, with one session working on speed and agility, and the other on technical skills.
“On the weekends, we participated in the Louisville Futsal League, and won both the league and the tournament for our age division,” said Duckworth. “The fast pace and quick feet needed to play futsal should serve us well this spring.”
Strikers are hoping to win their ISL division and gain promotion, while it kicks off its campaign in the Kentucky Select Soccer League (Div 1) this Sunday at home to Bluegrass (3 p.m.)
“We are looking forward to taking the next step up,” said Duckworth. “The Presidents Cup at the end of the season will be a healthy test of how far we have progressed this last year.”
Net-Surfers’ U16 team, meanwhile, achieved some success last year, including the capturing of the Queen City Tournament in Cincinnati.
In the Presidents Cup, Lindsey Wilkerson’s troops have been drawn in a group with Fort Wayne, Jr. Irish and Indiana Invaders Blue.
“This team has lots of potential with good talent,” says assistant coach Walter Iglesias. “Most of the girls have played together for years and know each other well. This should make for a good opportunity to do well in the President’s Cup. There will be lots of good competition and I believe in the spirit of these girls determination to win.”
The girls kick off their spring campaign with a tough opener in the Kentucky Select Soccer League Gold Division at home to Javanon this Saturday (1 p.m.).
The President Cup winners will represent Indiana at the Region II Midwest championships, and this year it is being held in South Bend, Indiana in June, while the national championships will take place in Des Moines, Iowa in July.
This is the fourth year of the US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup competition on a national level, but Indiana Soccer previously selected ISL Premier Division leaders who hadn’t advanced to the Indiana State Cup finals.
Indiana Soccer’s Director of Competition, Angel Hall, said she expects that by adding the Presidents Cup format, the Challenge Cup event – which will feature some of the area’s teams — will become more attractive. It is open to travel and recreational plus teams, but Midwest Regional League and ISL Premier teams are not eligible for it.
“The previous State and Challenge Cup results reflect that over 21 per cent of the preliminary round games are played to a goal differential of five or more,” she said.
The introduction of the Presidents Cup will also necessitate changes to the current State Cup format, which will be limited to 12 teams instead of the previous 16 team per age division format. The Challenge Cup will not have a limit to the number of teams accepted.