Inside Events: SMC Soccer
30 Nov, 2021By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Steve Lovgren, President, Owner and Founder
Soccer Management Company (SMC) is an all-inclusive youth soccer tournament operations company that brings world-class events to the soccer tournament market. The organization has the goal of partnering with events that are looking to increase participation and provide a better experience for their attendees.
In 2021, SMC has overseen and collaborated on more than 50 events across 10 states. Having managed tournaments since 2013, the organization prides its team on providing a professional, quality event for all athletes and their families.
Sports Destination Management: What age groups does SMC serve?
Steve Lovgren: We are strictly youth-based and strictly soccer. We put on competition and travel tournaments for boys and girls from U7 to U19.
SDM: Are you doing small-sided soccer as well?
Lovgren: Yes – we do 4v4 for the U7 and U8, 7v7 for U9 and U10, and 9v9 for ages 11 and 12. We also put on 11v11 events for the U13-U19 market.
SDM: Are you working nationwide?
Lovgren: We’re close – we’re in 15 different states right now. We are not all the way out to California and Washington State yet, but we’re getting there. We had our first event in Utah in July, so we’re moving westward.
SDM: What makes you want to select a state to host an event?
Lovgren: We want the situation to be right. The tournament market is saturated but very few people can do tournaments properly. Mom-and-pop organizations are nice but when someone has a full-time job and is also trying to help run a soccer club and a tournament, it’s a lot of work. I look at the ability to put on a tournament well as being a niche we can fill.
SDM: And when you’re trying to decide on a city, are you seeking specific facilities or venues?
Lovgren: We look for several factors. We need a larger facility. We need venues with six to eight fields, or preferably more. It can be hard to find those, depending on where you are. You also want something with plenty of hotels near the fields, and things kids want to do. Those are the key ingredients.
SDM: If a destination or a venue wants to reach out to you about hosting there, what should they do?
Lovgren: They can e-mail me at email@example.com call me at 804-833-2092. We’re very accessible and willing to talk.
SDM: What are your big events like?
Lovgren: We have six to eight 200-team tournaments per year. We have one event in Florida that brings in more than 300 teams, uses 2,300 room nights in one weekend and takes up 30 fields. We’ve been trying to get those numbers closer to 3,400 room nights.
SDM: How did the pandemic affect you, and are you still seeing its affects?
Lovgren: Our tournaments hosted roughly 4,000 teams in 2019. In 2020, we dropped to having 2,700 teams come through our events. In 2021, we’re having 5,500 in 2021, and in 2022 we are expecting to see between 5,500 and 7.000 in 2022.
SDM: What other changes did you make?
Lovgren: We started working with a marketing company and spent a lot of time retooling our digital marketing and social media. We’re finally getting the results back – changing up things really worked for us. We also added two staff members. We rethought a lot of things. It’s a different company from when the pandemic started.
SDM: Is it back to business as usual?
Lovgren: I think we’re still in the tail end of the pandemic, but people are really ready to get back to life. I was reading an article and it noted that the one thing that has come out of this is that people have more balance in their lives. They have been working from home and doing things with their families and they have come to appreciate that.
SDM: It was hard on kids who really enjoyed sports.
Lovgren: It was. Some states just shut everything down, and those kids were almost having a PTSD experience; they really needed outlets for their energy, their frustration – I think parents realized that.
SDM: Soccer’s growth has been tremendous. Do you tie it to any one thing?
Lovgren: The growth really stretches back. Any time there is a World Cup, an Olympics, a women’s World Cup, you have a spike in participation, including kids signing up, but also volunteers like coaches and referees. Right now, a lot of people are looking forward to the 2026 World Cup because it means growth right here.
SDM: Are you streaming events?
Lovgren: Yes, and I would say that’s one of the biggest changes in sports – a lot more people are utilizing video. We are working with BallerTV. It really helped out because there used to be a lot more camps and combines that coaches could go to when they wanted to fill up their rosters. Now they can look at the live streams and see the players they’re interested in. We’re seeing more complexes that have cameras already installed on each field because they know it makes them more marketable.
SDM: You have a really successful operation. What do you attribute that to?
Lovgren: I have high quality staff guys and I’m really proud of them. When you really enjoy what you do, it stops being work. I have great guys and it shows in our success – it translates to a better product for the teams that come to our tournaments. Trying to put on the best event is always our goal. Anyone can run a tournament, but because the guys I have are so good, and because of the hard work that we put into it, the end result is a good experience for everyone who comes to the tournament.