SANTA ANA PUEBLO – Officially, there is no major problem with the officials this week at the US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships.
While there were some rumblings of referee shortages entering the 237-team event, and tournament officials acknowledged they could have used a few more bodies, there was only one instance in the first three days of 360 games played in which a referee was forced to call a fourth game in a day – one game more than what organizers consider their max for a regional event.
Rob Martella, head of operations for the tournament, said this week’s event at the New Mexico Soccer Complex near Bernalillo has 188 referees and 34 assessors, who essentially grade the performance of the on-field referees. Every game has had four referees and one assessor.
New Mexico’s referee association provided 32 referees, which falls within the “30 to 40 we’d like the host state to normally provide” when they host a regional event. Martella said event organizers would have liked to have had 210 referees for this week’s event, but added being 22 short has not led to any major problems.
He added a software glitch scheduling the referees earlier in the week made it appear as those some referees were double-booked for multiple games at the same time, but that never happened.
At least one state in the 13-state region that comprises Region IV sent as many as 32 referees (Washington) this week, while others sent as few as seven (Colorado).
A LITTLE HELP: Two Major League Soccer referees – Jesus Cisneros and Hector Perez – are at the regionals this week. They’re not officiating games, but mentoring officials.
Tournament director Tom Mendoth said in his 24 years, he doesn’t recall ever having MLS officials volunteer their time to come to a regional event to mentor officials.
POOL POWER: Dominating pool play (or group play) doesn’t mean a whole lot once bracket play begins Friday, but it can sometimes be a decent indicator of just how good a team is.
A handful of teams simply tore through their groups this week in the regionals. Among the more lopsided performances in terms of goals for vs. goals against include:
⋄ U12 boys: Surf Boys Academy from Southern California was 3-0, outscoring opponents 21-2.
⋄ U14 boys: Real Colorado National 99/00 went 3-0, outscoring opponents 17-0. Three teams in their four-team group scored 10 or more goals, while the fourth, the Missoula (Mont.) Strikers, had a rough go of things this week, going 0-3 in the group while being outscored 33-1.
⋄ U16 girls: Beach FC 97 Academy from Long Beach, Calif., went 3-0 in group play, outscoring its three opponents 16-0.
⋄ U18 girls: FC Boulder out of Colorado went 3-0, outscoring opponents 16-2.
ALMOST AN OFF DAY: Today is an off day for most of the teams in the regionals, but not for the U19 girls. Because only five teams are in the regionals in the U19 division, instead of a traditional pool play format with the top two teams from groups of four advancing to bracket play, all five U19 teams will play one another this week. That means games each day, Monday through Friday, including two games today at noon for this division. The top two teams after Friday’s games advance out of group play directly into a Sunday championship.
The rest of the tournament field is off today.