Courtesy: Soccer NationFutsal National Championships in Anaheim
by Stephen PrendergastMonday, June 4, 2012US Futsal National Championships Return for 27th Edition
Competition to Take Place in Anaheim from July 12-15
The 27th U.S. Futsal National Championships will grace the floor of the Anaheim Convention Center from July 12-15. Over 160 teams are expected to compete in divisions from U-9 through Open and Over-35 for both men/boys and women/girls. This will mark the third straight year the championships have taken place in Southern California, following two years in Long Beach. Prior to that, they had been held for two years in Baltimore, Md.
“This is our 27th National Championships,” said U.S. Futsal President Alex Para, “so it’s certainly the oldest, biggest and most prestigious futsal championship in the United States. We have teams coming here all the way from Maryland in the east to Hawaii in the west.”
With 80 percent of the teams competing at the youth levels, Para is pleased to have the competition in Anaheim. “It is close to Disneyland, so they can enjoy that. So you have the competition, and then you have some enjoyment for families.”
For anyone not familiar with the game, futsal is a small-sided (five-a-side) game played on a hard-surfaced court using a heavier ball than traditional soccer. Unlike indoor soccer, there are no sideboards for the ball to rebound off, which means that players must control the ball to a higher degree. Futsal has been credited with helping to produce some of the greatest players in the outdoor sport, such as Pele, Ronaldhino and Messi.
Teams participating in the National Championships will play a minimum of three matches, with the first place team receiving a trophy and the top three teams receiving medals. In 2011 Safira Soccer Academy from Massachusetts took the Men’s Open championship, going undefeated and beating Utah’s UFA Pro Sala in a close 2-1 match. On the women’s side, Southern California’s Legends FC overcame a strong Di Bufala team from Northern California 6-3.
In addition to the National Championships, the international Futsal Gold Cup will take place during the competition. The Futsal Gold Cup will pit teams from Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States to find the best international futsal side. The competition is separate from the regular National Championships.
Para explained that the powerhouse teams in the men’s competition come primarily from Northern and Southern California, Utah, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and the women’s teams tend to follow the same pattern. With the youth teams it is again the West and East Coasts that provide the strength.
“For the youth teams, both Northern and Southern California are strong, but we have had teams coming from Washington State which are very good,” Para explained. “Teams from the East Coast and the West Coast are the more powerful ones. Certainly we have teams coming in from the Midwest, and they do a good job, but they are not always as strong as the East and the West. Pennsylvania East and Pennsylvania West are very strong, and you have New Hampshire with good teams. So it is more diverse at the youth level, while the men’s teams are stronger in specific areas.”
Part of the reason for this, he said, is because of simple geography. In the East the states are closer together, providing more opportunities for competition that promotes growth. In the West it is because the game has been played in the region longer, futsal getting its foothold mainly on the West Coast. “We had four National Championships on the West Coast before we went to the East Coast in 1989 for the national competition,” Para explained.
With the long history of futsal on the West Coast, there are even second-generation youth teams competing. “We have some youth teams coming in with people who played as children in our championships twenty years ago and are now coming back as coaches and their children are playing,” said Para. “It’s nice that we’ve had a whole generation come along playing futsal. We have one team from San Diego and another from Utah where the fathers who are coaching competed before and now they are coming back with their children.”
The Futsal National Championships are an excellent opportunity for teams to hone their skills and for fans of soccer to learn more about the growing sport. “Futsal is growing around the world,” Para pointed out. “Years ago no one knew what futsal was, now everyone realizes how important it is – the great teams and clubs in the world, and even in the United States. Most coaches now are recommending it.”
In recent years the Futsal National Championships have even attracted the attention of U.S. Futsal National Team head coach Keith Tozer, who attended last year's championships. The U.S. team will take part in CONCACAF Qualifiers in June this year, prior to the National Championships, so it is unlikely Tozer will attend this year. However, the team has in the past taken part in exhibitions against top men’s teams during the National Championships as part of the training to compete for a place in the FIFA Futsal World Cup in November.
While the deadline for teams to register for the Futsal National Championships is nearing, there is still time to become a part of this annual event. This is especially true for teams from Southern California, who have it in their own backyard.
“It’s amazing that, although we have the National Championships in Southern California – and you would expect at least one team from each category from California – we don’t have as many as we would like,” said Para. “I hope we get more teams from Southern California. When the teams from Southern California compete they always do very well, but there are not enough in the categories from California.”
For fans of futsal, Anaheim is the place to be July 12-15. The action promises to be non-stop and the competition fierce. For more information or to register, visit the U.S. Futsal National Championships website.
Posted by Luca Ranocchiari