If you have been paying attention to social media this week you probably noticed a good number of Ohio teams were traveling to Raleigh, NC for the visitRaleigh.com Boys College Showcase. Based on event standings and social media accounts of the event, Ohio teams did very well.
The Ohio high school soccer season runs well into November leaving clubs with a limited number of weeks before the new year to train and attend the typical 1-2 college showcases. The visitRaleigh.com Boys College Showcase is a well attended event that takes place the second weekend in December and being in the Raleigh/Durham/Cary region of North Carolina weather should be mild this time of year. Unfortunately, this event has become too big for its organizers who poorly managed scheduling and coordinating acceptable fields, managing schedules and communication.
By my estimates this event had 460 teams which required the scheduling of more than 680 games across 3 days. The event website says games are scheduled at 23 locations across the region. As someone who has spent the last 7 years working in soccer as team and club admins, refereeing countless tournaments and supporting tournament directors I understand how difficult it is to manage large events. I also know that it can be done, and it can be done well.
The sanctioning document submitted to and approved by USYSA listed the event at $1695 per team although I believe they only charged $1595.
Stay to Play
This is a stay to play event that uses On Location as their housing company, this is the old Anthony Travel, the same company used by Jefferson Cup. The housing process was great. The negotiated price was well below list prices and the hotel we used was able to accommodate our entire team, it was a nice property and was well situated between the 3 locations where we were eventually assigned to play. I typically only stay in Hilton properties, this was a Hyatt Place and I would absolutely stay there again.
We received our first schedule about 3 weeks in advance. The schedule didn’t change for a while but within the last week we had countless schedule changes. Changes were made to all field locations, kick-off times and games were cut from 80 minutes all the way down to 60 minutes. Some local North Carolina teams were scheduled a fourth game for the weekend, which seemed contradictory to the fact that they were shortening game times.
If games were running long they would just be ended regardless of the amount of time remaining so that they could stay on schedule for the next game coming in.
Fields were changed multiple times to locations which were quite unsuitable. Two of our three games were played on field hockey fields that measured about 55 by 100 yards. For perspective an 11v11 field should be about 70 by 110 yards (or larger), a 9v9 field is typically 55 x 70 yards.
To make the situation worse, the turf was too short for cleats - most players only had cleats causing players to continually slip when changing directions. Since the fields are not built for soccer they were fenced in with a chain link fence that was 6-8 feet tall and stood about 4 feet off of the touch line. Above the fence there was netting along some of the fence line but not high enough or all around causing the ball to go over the fence and down the hills cutting into already shortened game times.
Games were stacked back to back with nowhere for teams to warm up before their game. Again, these facilities were on hills where the surrounding green space was, wooded or rocky. As soon as a game was over, it was time to start.
Referees were good overall. They were put in a tough situation by the event. Players, coaches and parents were on edge because of the shortened games bringing an urgent energy to each game. They did a good job of keeping games on schedule and calling fair and consistent games. Each field (even the locations with just one field) had a trainer and field marshal onsite. Trainers were attentive and thorough.
College Coaches and Recruitment
This event had 204 coaches from 127 schools registered to be onsite for the event. For comparison the Indianapolis Men's Showcase at Grand Park last week only had 55 coaches from 50 schools registered.
College Coaches attending this event were asked to check-in at the WRAL Soccer Park which served as the event headquarters and has 22 fields. This is where the U17 and U19 Elite Gold Divisions were scheduled. For coaches this is very convenient; they have the opportunity to watch high level games of players graduating 2023-2024 all in one place. For players graduating in 2025-2026, the chances of a coach coming off of this main campus to watch players who are not eligible for contact play on a single field hockey field is not great.
Players from our group who had contacted coaches ahead of the event were busily having to send emails almost daily for the last week (and each day this weekend) to send schedule updates, although we don’t believe any coaches actually attended our games.
The better option would have been to attend their combine on Thursday. The combine was an additional event that included 4-5 hours of training by the 21 college coaches in attendance followed by a 70 minute game. The cost was only $150 and included a t-shirt and college recruiting seminar for the players who attended. Players that paid just $150 to attend the combine had more exposure to college coaches in one day than anyone playing in three 60 minute games across three days.
In Ohio, high school age teams have a very limited fall season. High schools who are successful in their seasons will play well into November and then weather in and around Ohio becomes difficult to predict. After only 3-4 weeks of post high school training, clubs have a limited number of weeks to travel for events and it's tempting to try to find an event in warmer climates, however I would not suggest the visitRaleigh.com Boys College Showcase. It is not worth driving 6-9 hours (depending on what part of Ohio you are coming from) to play on miniature fields, in shortened games with no real chance of being seen by college coaches. I would assume U17 and U19 teams may have more success and may have had a better experience, if they are participating in one of the top 2 divisions. If you do attend this event I would highly suggest you take advantage of the combine.
Maximize your December and Winter in Ohio
The northern part of Ohio is light years ahead of central and southern regions of the state in that there are many more soccer specific indoor facilities and bubbles which help to keep the game going through the winter months. In Geneva, Ohio the Great Lakes Alliance actually runs an indoor winter league at Spire Institute and a Winter Showcase at the end of January.
Events you may consider instead of the visitRaleigh.com Boys College Showcase
Events like the Gateway Showcase in Cincinnati, the Great Lakes Fall Showcase in Canton and the Indianapolis Men’s Showcase at Grand Park are three well attended events with good competition and plenty of local college coaches attending. The only drawback to these events is that you may be playing some of the same teams from around Ohio that you see in league play.
If you are looking for good competition that you don’t typically see around here, I would suggest the GIT at Mike Rose in Memphis, TN (although this is not a showcase) or the Baltimore College Showcase in Columbia, Maryland.
You can find many of these events on our tournament page, some of these events are hosted by OSMD Insiders.