Youth soccer continues to thrive amid the pandemic as more than 300 youth soccer teams are scheduled to play at the Girls Showcase this weekend in Raleigh, N.C.
The tournament comes just as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the United States after Thanksgiving gatherings may have spread the virus. North Carolina reached a new record in daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
The Girls Showcase comes as organizers cancelled another tournament that was set for this weekend in Greensboro.
"With the health and safety of all participants as our top priority, we believe it is not in the best interest of the teams and families to travel at this time. That fact has become evident through the growing number of teams that have been forced to pull out of the events due to cases within their club, travel restrictions put in place by their local and state officials, or similar reasons," the Greensboro tournament organizers wrote, according to the local ABC affiliate.
The annual tournament in Raleigh, which is put on by NCFC Youth, acts as a recruiting vehicle for many young players, drawing college scouts from across the country. In past years, the tournament has drawn 500 teams and up to 600 college scouts.
"Those seniors, especially, they're going to be making decisions over the next three to four months where they're going to spend the next four years of their lives. So for us, we feel like it's our duty to them make to make sure we're providing an opportunity for them to be seen by college coaches and ultimately be able to identify where they want to spend the next four years," tournament director Bryan Bachelder said.
Bachelder maintains that the tournament has safety protocols in place, including temperature checks and health screenings for players, parents and coaches. Other safety policies include wearing masks at all times, leaving the complex between games and limiting spectators.
"Teams are playing games at large outdoor venues across our community that have ample space for social distancing, designated spectator/team areas, and sanitation stations among other safety protocols," Bachelder said.
North Carolina governor Roy Cooper’s current executive order does not prohibit youth sports but NCDHHS strongly recommends only playing sports where social distancing is possible.
"I would certainly be concerned about it and we need to make sure people abide by mask gathering limits. People need to be very careful when they are gathering together," Cooper said when asked about the tournament earlier this week.
While the tournament is still scheduled, NCFC Youth is offering refunds to teams based in states with travel restrictions.
"For teams that have no travel restrictions in place, we're still working with them to provide significant refunds or full credits to ensure that families are able to make the best decisions for their family without any concern over financial ramifications. Simply put, we're not interested in profiting off of the uncertainty of a pandemic," Bachelder said in an email to ABC.