Starting a youth soccer tournament

So, you think you want to run a soccer tournament.


It’s not a flippant question, but one that needs to be answered before you do one more thing on your event. If your answer is “because everyone else is doing it,” stop, click away and pursue other hobbies. Without a clear purpose for your event, you will fail.

Ok, now that we have all the hobbyists and dreamers out of the room, let’s get down to the serous business of putting together and running a successful soccer tournament event.

The first thing you should know and never forget is a very controversial position. You must remember this always and never be swayed from this one simple, but hard to defend fact. If you lose this focus, you will fail.


A soccer tournament is not about soccer competition; it is an entertainment event centered around soccer.

Teams and clubs play soccer in their leagues and schools. Their league standings determine how successfully they will be ranked, whether or not they will advance within their state cups, etc. Sure, there are a few soccer tournaments that are about soccer and rankings and points, but they are run by the US Soccer organizations, not by clubs. Your soccer tournament event is not one of them and won’t be. Points don’t matter.

Have you been scared off yet?

Good. Let’s keep going.

Now that we have accepted a soccer tournament is an event, let’s back up to our first question; why are you producing a soccer tournament?

Now that we have established that your soccer tournament is an event, your why should be aligned with event production thinking. Some reasons for holding an event are:

  • A fundraiser for our club, league, community or cause.
  • To promote the club brand within the larger soccer community.
  • To provide a fun, family-friendly event that promotes the local community.
  • To provide a pre or post-season event for teams to prepare for an upcoming season or wind down from a season.
  • To provide a venue where higher caliber teams can compete to prepare for tournament play in their state cups.
  • To provide a venue where less competitive teams can compete in a soccer tournament format.

Each of these is a good reason to produce a soccer tournament.

Your reason may even be several of these intertwined. The important part is that you understand why you are producing your event and who your ideal guest teams are. It will drive everything you do.

But don’t be inflexible. Things change. Your club mission may change; the soccer marketplace may change, your community might change. Change is good, but purposeful change is better. Always, remember that your soccer tournament is an event, though.

One more important point to remember:
A soccer tournament is a business.

While you may be holding it to raise money for your club, need volunteers to help run it and your mission may be to advance the sport of soccer in your community, it is a business. Venders and suppliers of goods and services need to be paid. Contracts need to be signed, you need insurance and teams need customer service. Someone in your organization will be held responsible for commitments and this should not be taken lightly.

Marketing your event will be hard work. A couple decades ago, you could call a few coaches, get some teams together for a weekend and run a pretty good tournament event. Today, your competition is sophisticated. They have been marketing themselves offline and online for longer. They have traction and a long tail. Moreover, they have built trust within the soccer community. Marketing will be your biggest challenge and is no longer something you can do on a few nights and Sunday afternoon. Thanks to the internet, your soccer tournament is now a 365/24/7 event that never sleeps and never takes a winter break.

Your competition may not even be another soccer tournament. Attending a soccer tournament usually absorbs a family’s time for an entire weekend. Your competition may be other sports, festivals or simply “do nothing” time. If there is enough push from the parents, a coach will not sign up her team regardless of how great your event is. Always size up your competition, both inside and outside of soccer.

Ok. I think we’re ready to get started.

Congratulations on your soccer tournament. We wish you many years of success.

PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Blackwell, 2019 DaytonStrong 3v3, Dayton, Ohio