Bethesda Soccer Club and the Maryland SoccerPlex are launching a dual-level tournament, which will include a Premier level bracket for international teams from all over the world and some of the United States’ top teams, along with a Qualifier bracket for the Bethesda Cup in November.
The inaugural running of the Embassy Cup, which will only include domestic teams in 2015 and not an international bracket, is set for June 19-21.
Meanwhile, Bethesda SC Executive Director and Tournament Director Brad Roos is seeking to build enough momentum and awareness to bring a long-awaited international youth soccer tournament to the greater Washington, D.C. area as early as 2016.
“Having traveled to the Dallas Cup and the USA Cup seeing the atmosphere at those events, bringing an elite international tournament to the Washington, D.C. area just seems natural,” Roos said. “You have the nation’s capital, you have landmarks and attractions that many international players have only seen in pictures or on T.V that they will now have a chance to actually go to.”
As the leader of one of the top youth soccer tournaments in the country with the Bethesda Premier Cup, Roos appreciates and has been inspired by the growth of the Dallas Cup over the years, which has had teams and referees from 47 states, 100 countries and six continents since its inception in 1980. The Dallas Cup, widely regarded as one of the world’s top boys tournaments, annually draws more than 100,000 spectators to FC Dallas’ Toyota Stadium and surrounding venues during the week-long event.
While the number of travel soccer showcase tournaments in the United States continues to increase every year, the number of high level international tournaments remains relatively low, in part because of the high barrier to entry to organizing such an event. In light of the tournament’s name, organizers will include D.C. area-based embassies in the planning process to better accommodate international teams.
“I don’t know how much of a role they will play in bringing the teams in, but certainly when teams do come, the embassies will do dinners or receptions for those teams, so I think that’s a natural draw as well,” Roos said.
Maryland SoccerPlex Executive Director Trish Heffelfinger, one of Roos’ chief partners in organizing the Embassy Cup, shares his vision for growing it into a renowned global event. With a top quality field complex close to D.C. and years of experience building soccer tournaments between them, she said “the stars aligned” for taking action on the idea.
“From our very early years we wanted to have an international tournament because it made all the sense in the world,” Heffelfinger said. “We like the idea of collaborating together and working off each other’s strengths to make this a premier event for the community.”
Over the last 30-plus years, the Generation Adidas Bethesda Premier Cup, recently re-named from the Bethesda Tournament, has grown into one of the nation’s most coveted college showcases. Played primarily on the SoccerPlex’s 19 Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda Grass fields, the event hosts more than 800 teams over the course of two weekends from some of the top clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada, along with some 500 college coaches.
Several hundred teams were denied access to the 2014 Bethesda Tournament due to limited capacity at the SoccerPlex and the few close-by satellite locations that meet the event’s field quality standards. Those teams are now able to play their way into the event at either the Embassy Cup or Rush for the Cup, a tournament held in August hosted by the SoccerPlex, Maryland Rush Montgomery and Alliance SC.
Since 2000, the SoccerPlex has been at the center of the state’s youth soccer community, partnering with a wide range of local leagues and clubs, in addition to in-house programs. These include Maryland State Cups, the Bethesda Premier Cup, Potomac Memorial Tournament, a tournament series with Maryland Rush Montgomery and Alliance SC, in-house tournaments such as the Discovery Cup and others. It has also hosted three US Youth Soccer National Championships including the 2014 event.
Heffelfinger said that her main motivation for partnering in the Embassy Cup is to expand the venue’s network to a global scale, providing players from all over the world with a chance to experience play high level soccer while getting to visit attractions such as the White House, Capitol and the Smithsonian. With the Bethesda Premier Cup play-in brackets built in, the local soccer community will be fully immersed in the event as well, along with a festival atmosphere including food vendors and interactive areas.
“We want this to be one of the international events that people go to not only for the competition, but because it’s a great cultural experience,” Heffelfinger said. “We want the greater community to embrace it, and we want to get all sorts of people involved in helping the Embassy Cup grow.”