1. Mead Cup – Dayton, OH Sept 4 – 6 (Every Labor Day) http://www.meadcupsoccer.com

This tourney has been my favorite since I was first there four years ago in September. This tournament opened up my eyes to what youth soccer could be like. Wes was guest playing with Bluegrass 96 (his team now) and the fields, amount of teams, the trophies (taller than me) and competition made Wes and his parents want to be able to play again and again in that atmosphere. Here are the catagories that determine the rankings

a. Refs  *** They let you play in Ohio – I actually like that

b. Atmosphere **** You can not get better than over 400 teams from all over three regions. The excitement around the fields is contagious. I love the trophy tent that sits out in the middle of the complex that displays the man size trophies. Teams just keep walking by and staring in awe – well at least this father did.

c. Competition ***** Great competition for a U14 and younger tourny. You get the opportunity to play some of the best teams from Region II (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, KY are some examples) with a few tough teams coming from Region I (Eastern states like VA, Penn, and NY) or Region III (teams from Tenn, Bama and even North Carolina).

d. Surrounding Area *** Dayton is not the most exciting place to visit but there are some great little resturants that teams can enjoy together and a couple really good soccer stores to visit.

2. FC Pride – Lawrence, IN Oct 2-3  www.fcpride.org/tournaments/cup/index_E.html

This is a great run tournament with pretty good competition and a great faciltiy to play in. My older son’s team played there last year and I was very impressed. We missed out on the finals barely but the whole experience was great.

a. Refs ***** Best officiated tournament I have been to. The marketing material talks about how the tournament does not want to be remembered for an official’s call and it showed in the attitude and competence of the officials.

b. Atmosphere **** It was great. It is smaller than the Mead cup but there are a lot of really good clubs with knowledgable fans/parents. The best thing is the huge facilty that the entire tournament is played at. The fields are flat and in good condition. It can get a little cold – this was the first time our team felt the cold last fall. Our first game was miserable but the rest of the games were OK.

c. Competition ***We played in the top division and were able to play three teams from three different states that all had very good resumes. One team was not as good as expected but the other two were very good. The other team from KY were the eventual state champions.

d. Surrounding Area **** Basically this tournament is in Indianapolis. There is so much to do in Indy – great restaurants, amusement activities, great hotels. There is a lot for the players and the parents to do in this great city.

3. Nike Challenge Cup – Columbus, OH  http://www.nikechallengecup.com/

Another great tourney in Ohio. This is a lot of like a spring version of Mead Cup but not quite. But still it is big, great fields and some of the best competition around our area.

a. Refs ** Refs a bit suspect at this tourney but aren’t they at most places

b. Atmosphere *** It does not have the festival feel that FC Pride and Mead Cup has but it is still pretty awesome. I was only at one location this past year and have not seen the other fields. The other fields may have more energy than the location I watched games.

c. Competition **** This was some of the most diverse competition we played last year. We played the number 2 team out Tennessee, a solid team from Ohio, and a team from Canada. All of the strong KY teams except our eventual state champions were there as well.

d. Surrounding Area ***** You can’t beat Columbus for a place to have a soccer tournament. The area offers great flat fields, people with good soccer knowledge, a Columbus Crew game, and lots of restaurants and activities. Columbus is a great city – especially for soccer.

4. Mockingbird Invitational – Louisville, KY Sept 25-26, 2010  http://louisvillecup.com/Fall/

I think that I enjoy this tournament the most out of all the tourneys in Louisville. It might not get the draw of teams like the Javanon Cup or the United but it is the best run and the friendliest. As you pull into the parking facility you are greeted by a rep from the club. She is not there to take your money but to give you directions to park and welcome you to the tournament. That is the feel of the entire tournament.

a. Refs *** Average KY officials. Lousisville offers better officials than the rest of the state and some parts of Ohio.

b. Atmosphere ***** As stated above you can not beat the freidly spirit of the tournament. It also has a festival feel and a genuine excitement that makes you want your kid to play soccer until he is thirty.

c. Competition ** If the slate of teams was a little better than this would be ranked higher on my list. If you have a top tier team you will not play anybody even in the premiere division until the semi-finals.

d. Surrounding Area **** I love Louisville. It offers a lot of great restaurants and activities. There plenty of hotels at a wide range of prices. If you are traveling from a distance you will want to see Church Hill Downs which is the home of the KY Derby.

5. Bluegrass Cup – Versailles, KY  Aug 13-15, 2010 http://www.bluegrasscup.com/

I might be a little biased on this one but honestly I think this is a great tournament. My older son’s club hosts this one in beautiful Versailles, KY. This is a small tournament at the beginning of the fall season for U14 and below, which are the only ages allowed to play in KY during the fall because of high school soccer. This was the first tournament my boys ever played in and I was hooked to wanting to be a part of youth soccer tournaments. It is a great little tournament for your team to get their feet wet to start the season.

a. Refs ** Again KY officiating and for this tournament most come from the Lexington area.

b. Atmosphere **** A very exciting atmosphere. This tournament seems to produce some great games and upsets. It is also at the beginning of the season where everyone is expecting a state run or at least to do well in their league. It is usually pretty hot and the snow cones are selling faster than they can make them.

c. Competition ** A top flight team might face one or two similar teams here. Sometimes an age group will be stacked because Bluegrass has some great teams which will draw good teams. Most of the teams come from KY with a few from Indiana and some occasionally from Ohio or West Virginia.

d. Surrounding Area **** Versailles, KY is a great little town in the heart of the Bluegrass. The rolling hills, horse farms, and Bourbon distilleries offer a beautiful place to play soccer in mid August. Lexington, KY is only 10 minutes away with many hotels and great restaurants. There is a lot to offer a soccer team.

If you are a soccer player or parent I would love to hear your top five soccer tournaments that you enjoy and if you have time tell me why. You can put it in the comments or email me direct and if you let me I will post it. Only a month away until the fall select season starts in KY – I can’t wait!