The 7 Elite Academy International Tournament has been given a resounding thumbs-up by parents and coaches who attended the record-breaking youth soccer event.
Thousands of players from across the United States gathered in Saint George and Washington City from February 4th to 6th, with a total of 200 teams taking part.
That number represented a 30% increase in registrations over 2020 – which itself was a record - reflecting its growing status as one of the region’s major tournaments.
Youngsters in the 2002 to 2012 played in the main tournament, while a separate Pre-Academy Jamboree catered for younger players.
But despite unprecedented demand for registrations, 7 Elite Academy has been praised for staging a competition that delighted the vast majority of visitors.
One parent, who travelled from Salt Lake City to watch his child play, told our online feedback survey: “The tournament was a ton of fun. My son played as a guest player on Randy's team and loved it.
“Randy (the coach) did a good job of including guest players and working to get the most out of the team. They narrowly missed playing in the finals.”
One of the coaches involved in the tournament added: “It was a great tournament with great fields, awesome officials and it was overall great experience for my team.”
Another parent said: “We had so much fun, thank you for giving our daughter a chance to play soccer during a time when so many tournaments and games have been cancelled. We are very grateful.”
90% of those surveyed gave the tournament a positive 7 to 10 rating, while 95% gave the facilities a positive 7 to 10 rating. And in a further boost to future events, 90% said they would definitely return in 2022.
The tournament was overseen by top-level officials from across the United States, including Grade 5 referees, the Female Referee of the Year in Arizona and academy pool candidates.
A coach who travelled with his team from outside Utah said: “I felt the referees were exceptional by and large.
“They all did a great job of controlling the game, keeping player safety in mind, while allowing players to play and enjoy the games.”
Another parent added: “The referees were beyond amazing in skill, ability, knowledge, game management and sportsmanship.”
Also in line for praise were the penalty shoot-out competitions, which were held at the end of every game for an extra point.
One of the coaches who watch her team take part in the shoot-outs said: “The PK shootout at the conclusion of each game was a blast.
“It allowed many players to be able to participate in that, which was fun for everyone. It added some incentive and excitement to the end of each game.”
And another parent said: “PK Shootouts were a lot of fun and it's been great to see the kids play. My son enjoyed the team and forged some new friendships.”
The 2022 7 Elite Academy International Tournament, which is expected to be held on a similar date next year, will see the addition of teams from the United Kingdom and Tanzania.