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Overseas Soccer Tournament or Overseas Soccer Tour

The first thing a coach, team manager or parent must decide when considering an overseas trip for their soccer team is whether they want an overseas soccer tournament or an overseas soccer tour. There is a subtle difference between the two that could have a big impact on the overall experience for your players and their families.

An overseas soccer tournament is very similar to any tournament you would find in the United States except that it's held in a foreign country. If it's a sizeable international event, it could last as long as a week, rather than the usual extended weekend that most events cover in the US. But the concept and the format will not be unfamiliar.

Teams are placed into brackets for first round games, (usually a minimum of three or four, played in a round-robin format), and the teams that earn the most points in group play move on to an elimination round. The focus is on competing, and the aim is to win the tournament, or at least win your team’s age group.

An overseas soccer tour is slightly different in that your team will play a series of games, but the games will not be connected in any way with one another. They will be what are known in the soccer world as “friendlies” and, while the aim is, of course, to win each individual game, the result of one game will have no bearing on whether you’ll be asked to play subsequent games.

There are, as in most things, pros and cons to each of these formats for coaches, players and parents alike. So think about what it is that each of these three parties hopes to achieve, and make your choice accordingly.

The first and most obvious difference is cost. Tournaments require entry fees, which then have to be added to the cost of flights, hotels, meals and spending money. In the grand scheme of things, compared to the overall cost of a trip to Europe or South America, it’s probably not going to make or break the budget. But it is worth noting that tours are often cheaper than tournaments.


Competition

For teams looking to compete, and let's face it, Americans are competitive by nature, a tournament is probably the way to go. Winning or placing in a prestigious event like the Dana Cup is a big thrill for any team, and a well-written press release upon your return can add real kudos to a club looking to build its own reputation stateside.

International Soccer Tournaments

On the other hand, a lot of coaches might feel that too much emphasis on competition is detrimental to player development, and that a series of friendlies, interspersed with some well-run European-style, or Brazilian-style training sessions would be better for their players.

Speaking of Brazilian-style training, it’s perhaps telling that the country that develops more world class players than any other has very few youth soccer tournaments to speak of. There are plenty of opportunities for soccer teams to tour Brazil, but very few competitive tournaments for them to play in once they get there. Do the Brazilians know something about player development that their European and North American counterparts don’t?

Well, obviously they do, but that’s a discussion for another day.

More to the point, there are ample opportunities for your team to play competitive tournaments in the US. You may want to question if it’s a good idea to spend all that money just to go and do the same thing abroad.

If the main purpose of your visit is player development, maybe a tour would be the way to go.

On the other hand, if your aim is to test your players against several different styles of play, maybe a tournament is a better option. If you plan a tour to, say, England, scheduling five games against different teams along the way, you will likely find that all five teams play roughly the same style of soccer. Same could said of a tour to Spain, Holland or Germany.

But if you enter your team into a large international tournament, you could well find yourself up against teams from Scotland, Italy, and even Africa before you even complete the first round. Facing such a wide array of playing styles could be a tremendous learning experience for your team.

An overseas soccer tour, on the other hand, will probably give you more control over the level of competition you face. All tournaments will do their best to place your team in an appropriate bracket, and the larger the tournament, the more chance they have to do that. But does a tournament scheduler in Spain or Sweden really understand what the level of play is of a MAPLE team from Massachusetts? A good local tour operator would, and could set up games against teams of an appropriate level.


Cultural Experiences

But, hey, you don’t just go abroad for the soccer experience, do you? Cultural experiences can be just as important, and there really are very few cultural experiences quite like a well-run international soccer tournament. A gathering of thousands, or sometimes tens of thousands of kids in one place for an event can truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your players that far surpasses anything they might acheive on a soccer field.

Many international tournaments have “Olympic-style” opening ceremonies, while others host a series of social events for the players to get to know one another away from the field of play.

Take a look at this Gothia Cup Promotional Video to get a sense of the kind of social and cultural experience your players can get. You’re less likely to experience that on a tour when you play a few dozen other kids, who will all go home after the game, never to be seen again.


Visiting Families

Visiting families may also want to consider some key differences. If the aim is for the whole family to go along and to plan lots of sightseeing trips throughout, the constraints of a tournament schedule can really play havoc with those plans.

Let’s say your team has four first round games, all between 10:00am and 3:00pm on four consecutive days. Any plans you may have to go on trips for those days would be seriously hampered by that schedule. What’s more, you can’t make any plans at all for day five because you have no way of knowing if your team will make the elimination round, or what time their game might be, if they do.

A tour would give you the opportunity to schedule games according to your needs. Maybe you want to play all games in the evenings, in order to leave your days free for sightseeing. Or maybe the coach wants to plan games only on alternate days so as to allow plenty of rest, or perhaps a training session, between games.

Whether it’s an overseas soccer tournament or an overseas soccer tour, the key is to think about what it is you want your team to get from their trip. You may even opt for both, by planning a trip to one area or country for sightseeing, training and a couple of friendly games, all in preparation for your team’s participation in a prestigious international soccer tournament like the Gothia Cup.

Either way, there are plenty of terrific companies that offer to help plan your trip so that you can balance the needs of the coach with the needs of the players, and the needs of the parents.





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