Some of the first games to bring the return of live sports to Utah will come during a prep boys soccer tournament in Farmington next week.
The Graduation Cup is a 28-team, two-bracket, World Cup-style tournament for high school boys soccer teams created in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which ended sanctioned spring sports in March only a few games into the season.
The Cup finalized and released its schedule Tuesday. Games begin Monday, June 8, and the tournament ends with championship matches Saturday, June 13, at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington. The event has been approved by the Davis County Health Department and will not include spectators.
From the Utah County area, teams representing Timpview, Orem, Mountain View, Skyridge, Pleasant Grove, Maple Mountain and Westlake high schools will participate (as will Wasatch from Heber Valley). The independent event is not connected to the Utah High School Activities Association or the Utah Youth Soccer Association.
“This will be a really great tournament and will help fill the void for seniors who missed out on their last year of soccer. The goal is to get the boys out there and have a good time,” organizer Nisa Hancock said.
Depending on school district approval, many teams will be coached by their varsity head coaches and will wear their high school uniforms. Others will be wearing alternate uniforms and coached by other licensed coaches, Hancock said.
The event is intended to be friendly competition for varsity programs in the area, she said. Thanks to donations, all players will be given a T-shirt, seniors will receive a special senior gift, and the four teams that advance to championship matches will be awarded medals.
Hancock says she recently became the tournament director for Wasatch Soccer Club. When their Memorial Day classic was postponed, her husband had the idea to organize a tournament for high school boys soccer teams that had lost their spring seasons.
“I was like, ‘You’re absolutely right, let’s run with it,’” she said. “I made a ton of phone calls. ... It’s just me putting this on with a handful of soccer enthusiasts who wanted to help.”
Hancock said she originally planned for a single-group, one-champion schedule but the response was so overwhelming she configured a new plan to include as many teams as possible while still being able to meet health stipulations.
So now, the tournament is split into a 16-team “Pomp” division and a 12-team “Circumstance” division. Hancock says division assignments were determined by several criteria, including direct input from each coach.
Pool play games from June 8-10 will determine a run of knockout games to be decided June 11-13. Each team will play at least three games.
Davis County owns and operates Legacy Events Center. The venue’s director, Dave Hansen, and event coordinator Mike Moake confirmed that the Cup has secured approval with the venue and with the Davis County Health Department.
That required a formal health plan be approved by the health department. Hancock said she is working on video streaming options as no spectators will be allowed.
Notes from the health plan include: required pregame temperature and symptom checks, staggered check-ins, masks worn coming to and leaving a field, coaches and players on the sideline wearing masks during games, frequent hand sanitization, no handshakes or high fives or any celebrations with contact, and no sharing of water bottles.
Moake said there is enough green space at Legacy Events Center to have five regulation soccer fields in operation but, to protect against overcrowding, only three fields will be operating for this tournament.
Teams can have a maximum of 20 people at a game, intended to be 18 players and two coaches, Hancock said. Roster limits are 22 players, allowing for four alternates in the event of injury or players having other commitments, such as work schedules.
Teams representing the following high schools outside of the Utah County area also participating: Bonneville, Bountiful, Davis, Farmington, Morgan, Ogden, Roy, Viewmont, Woods Cross, Corner Canyon, Bingham, Brighton, Olympus, Murray, Hillcrest, Jordan, Riverton, Mountain Crest, Park City and Stansbury.