Top level youth soccer players from all over the country head to Tampa this week for United Soccer League's SoccerFest.
The professional league is based in Tampa and this is the third consecutive year it is hosting the tournament. The Super Youth League will hold its finals for age groups from U-13 to U-17 at the Ed Radice Sports Complex in Town 'N Country and the Land O'Lakes recreation complex.
"The Super Y-League is one of the most elite soccer leagues that kids can compete in," Super Y-League interim director Erin McGauley said. "There will be 75 college and national scouts that they will be able to play in front of with the potential to move on to the next level."
The tournament, which features teams made up of some of the best young talent, includes 136 teams, all of which had to qualify through their regular Super Y-League season.
One of the teams in the tournament is Real Salt Lake Tampa, a club team that has some Pasco County-based players in its lineup. They will be playing at the U-15 level.
Kody Parker is RSL Tampa's goalkeeper and plays for Land O'Lakes High School, also . The balancing act of playing for two teams isn't easy, but Parker says he is "looking forward to the tournament."
"It's hard sometimes balancing the two different teams, but we can handle it. We're all used to it," Parker said. "We've competed in this tournament before but we didn't do as well as I think we'll do this year."
As for home field advantage, Parker feels RSL does have somewhat of an upper hand on the other squads in the tournament.
"It's a tough tournament because we're playing all the best teams from around the country," Parker said. "But I feel like we have kind of an advantage because some of the teams from up north are used to colder weather, but for us, it'll be easy since we're from here."
Preparing teams for the SoccerFest can be somewhat difficult since coaches have limited time with the players due to school teams. RSL Tampa has been meeting only one day a week since school started.
"It's difficult because they all go to different high schools and you don't know what methods of teaching their coaches use," RSL Tampa assistant coach Mark Hall said. "Then some kids go through a great season and others an abysmal one and it's tough because everyone has different attitudes coming in, which makes it hard to have everyone on the same page for what we do here."
The importance of Y-League tournaments such as the USL SoccerFest is that it will provide crucial growth of American soccer talent.
"The Super Y-League is good in terms of exposure for the kids," Hall said. "It exposes the kids to the best players from all over the country as well as different playing styles. Also a lot of scouts assessing talent come to tournaments like this so it gives the kids opportunities to show what they can do."
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