There are plenty of soccer tournaments for school-, rec- and club-based teams. Soccer Youth takes a different approach, bringing together individual players from across the country and placing them on 7v7 teams to play together across one weekend. Events include the All-American Series, All-American Gold Cup and All-American Super Cup.
SDM caught up with Max Hammond from YTH Sports, who directs soccer activities, to find out about the organization, its events and what it seeks in a host.
Sports Destination Management: Soccer Youth is different from the traditional tournament scene.
Max Hammond: It is. What we do is we bring in players in the country playing together on teams competing in tournament play. Each All-American Series event features hundreds of players from all around the nation. Series locations are conducted in key locations across the United States. Plus, playing in the All-American Series gives each player the opportunity to be selected as one of the top players from each event, allowing participation in the All-American Golden Cup and Super Cup held each winter.
SDM: Is it a skills camp?
Hammond: While we do have a great training staff, we believe the market is saturated with skill-based camps and clinics. We are doing something new. Our whole event is based on kids playing 7v7 soccer and our audience is youth soccer players, parents and clubs. At this point, we don’t focus on the high school or college market.
SDM: What are your numbers like?
Hammond: Last year, we had more than 3,000 players representing 40 different states. This year looks to be even better. Every kid on a team may be from a different state so it’s a great learning experience for them. Our purpose is to give youth soccer players across the country the chance to showcase their skills in a fun environment.
SDM: What are you looking for in a destination that hosts your events?
Hammond: We want to know if there is a good soccer base in the area, obviously, and we need a minimum of five large soccer fields, which we can then divide up into small-sided fields. We also want to see if there is a good vacation appeal for our players.
SDM: Where have you hosted?
Hammond: There’s a complete list of events and destinations on our website but we always enjoy going to Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples, Florida, Legacy Sports in Mesa, Arizona, Elizabethtown Sports Park in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, DE Turf in Frederica, Delaware, N. Myrtle Beach Sports Park in N. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Some other locations include Panama City Beach, Florida, West Palm Beach, Florida and Round Rock, Texas.
SDM: What kind of fields are you looking for?
Hammond: Most of our events are on turf but if the weather is good, grass is great too.
SDM: How do you publicize your events?
Hammond: We do a lot of social media marketing – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and so on. Our social platform has over 75,000 followers, as well as another 250,000 followers with our Soccer Youth brand ambassador program. We also do a lot of reaching out to players who have been at our events in the past; they often like to return or to refer other players. We try to attend team events as well.
SDM: What does the future look like?
Hammond: It looks great! We started back in 2019 and we really see the market as booming. The future of soccer in the United States is on an unbelievable growth pattern like other countries around the world. Plus, the success of MLS, the USA Teams, and the World Cup are taking the sport to new levels.
SDM: Will you move into other youth sports like lacrosse?
Hammond: Our founder Scott Hacker also started Baseball Youth and Softball Youth. So we’re always looking at other possibilities like lacrosse or other sports but right now, we’re focusing on soccer.
SDM: You mentioned that your tournaments generally take place over the weekend. What is your season like?
Hammond: We try to work with the club season schedules and not create conflicts for their time. Club soccer runs from February to May; our season is May through August. We also put several key events during the wintertime frame.
SDM: What are the benefits of hosting events, and of playing in these events?
Hammond: In terms of hosting, majority of our participants are non-local kids and families who use room nights, eat at the restaurants, and more. In terms of playing, we see kids making new friends from around the country and getting the benefit of having to learn the game from new coaches. We’re play-based, not skill-based, and kids really seem to enjoy that.