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For its 10th anniversary, the Summer Explosion Cup is going big again.
Representatives from Wilson Youth Soccer Association will welcome 105 club teams from across North Carolina and Virginia to the grounds of Gillette Soccer Complex and surrounding fields over the weekend for what has become the traditional launching point for club seasons prior to the start of league play.
The enrollment of 105 teams represents the second-largest turnout in the event’s history, down just one from the record of 106 in 2012.
“I think you always want big numbers and a big environment, but it provides challenges,” WYSA Director of Coaching Thomas Goines said in a telephone interview Friday morning.
“We want to give everyone the best experience possible. But things became possible...we expanded the teams, and were able to offer to more age groups and teams.”
While the tournament structure will vary in each age division based upon the number of entrants, each team is guaranteed three games, whether in a traditional round-robin points system or round-robin plus a championship bracket.
The plush fields of Gillette, including its two turf offerings, are one of the primary calling cards for the Cup. But a radical swelling of teams will place games at other sites, including Rotary Park, Fike High, Toisnot Middle and Beddingfield High. The Barton College pitch is also among the potential sites.
“The challenges come down to making sure all teams get the guaranteed three games,” Goines said. “There’s a shortage of officials for the amount of games that we normally play, so we have to bring referees from out of the region and find hotel rooms for them.”
Goines lauded the work of WYSA executive director Richard Frazier in bringing the logistics together.
Another calling card of the Explosion Cup is the championship hardware, with the trophies designed to be a replica of the World Cup.
“It’s been a tradition longer than I’ve been here!” Goines said of the Explosion Cup’s trophies.
Competition will be held in 23 different age groups and levels, ranging from the U-10 Boys Gold to U-19 Girls Gold. There will also be a Platinum division in U-12 boys.
As a club, WYSA will send 11 teams into the weekend’s matches in U-10 Boys Gold, U-11 Girls Gold, U-11 Boys Gold, U-12 Boys Gold, U-13 Boys Gold, U-13 Girls Gold, U-14 Girls Gold, U-16 Girls Gold, U-17 Girls Gold and U-19 Girls Gold. Since the girls soccer high school season is in the spring, club soccer for that age group is contested in the fall. The roles are reversed for the boys during the spring.
Although an emphasis is placed upon being hospitable hosts, there is a pride element involved in keeping as many division championships at home as possible.
“I don’t know if we emphasize winning more than making sure the teams are having a good experience and growing 23 different competitive divisions,” Goines said. “It’s a matter of pride not letting the trophies go anywhere else.”
Several top-10 teams within the confines of NC will be on display, including WYSA’s U-14 Girls Gold squad, ranked No. 9 in the state. In U-11 Boys Gold, Wake Futbol Club Gold Juniors North (No. 2 in NC) and Wake Futbol Club 09 Blue (No. 3 in NC) are represented.
Pleasure Island Soccer Association 07 Gold, ranked No. 2 in the state in U-13 Girls Gold, will also play. PISA will also deploy the No. 7-ranked team from North Carolina in U-13 Boys Gold.