Inside Events: U.S. Futsal
18 Apr, 2018By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Alexander Para, President and CEO
United States Futsal (USFF) has been governing the sport of youth futsal, adult futsal and professional futsal in the United States since 1981. It also has been sponsoring state, regional and national tournaments since 1985. In addition, the organization has an O.D.P. program to identify and train athletes in each age group at a higher level in order to create a developmental pathway for their continued success.
U.S. Futsal is the only futsal organization member of U.S. Soccer and U.S. Youth Soccer. Futsal, the global game of indoor soccer, is played on all continents in over 100 countries by more than 12 million players. Because the game is played on a court the size of a basketball court, a variety of venues can accommodate it.
Sports Destination Management: How popular is futsal in the U.S.? Is it growing?
Alexander Para: The growth has been very good, particularly in the last three to five years, even though the game has been here for 40 years. It has taken time for the American culture to embrace it.
SDM: To what do you attribute that growth?
Alexander Para: I think people are beginning to realize that without exception, all the great players of the world grew up playing futsal. You have to think that 100 percent of those great players can not be wrong. And in the 21 FIFA World Cups, 17 have been won by countries that play futsal.
SDM: What advantages do you think futsal provides to players as they’re developing?
Alexander Para: Look at the game of soccer. There are small-sided fields. There are games that are 4 v 4, 6 v 6, games with different sizes of goals.
SDM: Not a lot of uniformity.
Alexander Para: Yes, it’s like learning a different sport every time a child gets a little older. If they play futsal instead, the field is always the same, the goal is always the same and there’s always the same number of players. Plus, the game moves faster because it’s in a more compact area and the players are more engaged in it since they have more chances to touch the ball. In a regular soccer game, if a kid is an average player, he might only get to dribble or pass or shoot the ball once or twice because the very fastest players on each team are really controlling the pace of the game. If he makes a mistake, he’s going to be upset about it. In futsal, you’re getting more chances, you get more practice at everything and mistakes get forgotten.
SDM: Plus, it’s good for parents who want to follow the action.
Alexander Para: Right – they are going to be looking at their child from, at most, 20 feet away instead of 20 yards.
SDM: Is it a better game for kids overall?
Alexander Para: I think so. In fact, there are eight times more chances to touch the ball during the game. There is also less chance of heading.
SDM: You put on several events for U.S. Futsal.
Alexander Para: We have eight regional competitions and one national competition. Our national championship will be held in July in Santa Clara, California.
SDM: What are you looking for when you go out to have those events hosted?
Alexander Para: We don’t need that much, really. The convention center or arena needs to have at least 100,000 square feet. We can have 80,000 square feet, but 100,000 is the better number. We want it to be close by the hotels where people are staying so they don’t need to find rides. Then we like having things for families to do so they can make a vacation of it. We just held our Northeast Regional Championship in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Before that, we were in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Editor’s note: According to U.S. FUTSAL’s website, the event in Atlantic City featured 320 teams (ranging from U9 boys and girls to Open level men and women) competing on 11 courts under one roof and was the largest futsal tournament in the United States if not the world. Hosting the 2018 U.S. Futsal Northeast Regional Championship required 11 regulation courts and 88 referees from across the country. All the games, in every division over the course of this event, were attended by more than 8,000 participants and spectators. When the Open Men played, there was standing room only.
SDM: U.S. Futsal offers a coaching certification program.
Alexander Para: We do – we offer it with the United Soccer Coaches and we have the information about it on our website. It’s a very decent program and it’s good to be able to offer it to people who want a coaching seminar.
SDM: Should someone who wants to host get in touch with the organization?
Alexander Para: If someone is interested in hosting, they can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.