For a second consecutive year, boys and girls soccer teams from central Ohio struggled in the pool-play portion of the Midwest Regional Cup tournament, which was held last Saturday through last Wednesday at Sportscore Soccer Complex in Rockford, Ill.
Only one of the 11 local teams won its pool to advance to a semifinal last Tuesday, though one other area team advanced as a wildcard. The finals were last Wednesday.
Last year, only two of 10 area teams qualified to semifinals, and neither made it to the finals. Heading in the 2008 Regional, a Columbus team hadn't won a Regional Cup since Ohio Premier won the under-13 title in 2002.
The local team that won its pool-play bracket at the 2008 Midwest Regional Cup was the Blast F.C. U-14 boys team (2-1). The Ohio Premier U-19 girls team (1-1-1) advanced as a wildcard.
Other area teams competing were the Blast F.C. girls U-17 (0-3), the Eagles S.C. U-15 girls (0-2-1), the Eagles S.C. U-19 boys (2-1), the Blast F.C. U-18 boys (0-2-1), the Worthington United U-17 boys (0-3), the Team Ohio U-16 boys (1-1-1), the Blast F.C. U-15 boys (2-1), the COSA Express U-15 boys (1-1-1) and the Worthington United U-13 boys (0-1-2).
"There are so many good players and good teams here, and there's such a fine line dividing most of us. You need to play well and you need to catch some breaks," Ohio Premier U-19 girls coach Chris King said. "You've got to be fortunate enough to stay healthy, and sometimes a lucky bounce of the ball can make all the difference."
"Luck is huge in this tournament, especially with the (blind) draw," COSA Express U-15 boys coach Marc D'Auteuil said. "The other teams in your pool and how the games line up can determine a lot. There are a lot of good teams who don't make it out of their bracket, because they get stuck in a pool with two or three other very good teams."
Several coaches suggested that the talent in central Ohio is spread too thin between too many clubs.
"There are so many clubs in Columbus competing with each other and we're continuing to split up all of the talent," Team Ohio U-16 boys coach Harold Horton said. "It's just like when you add a second or third high school into a school district. It divides the talent across the board and none of the teams are as strong as they could be."
Worthington United club director Billy Thompson said area coaches need to pool together their most talented players into one top-level club in order to be more competitive at the regional and national levels.
"We can't continue to beat up on our neighbors and think we're successful," Thompson said. "We need to put our most talented kids together. There's no other city the size of Columbus that divides its talent the way we do."