Growing Adult Soccer Across America – The 2016 USASA Adult Soccer Fest is Fun For All Adults
SoccerToday spoke with English-born Duncan Riddle, Executive Director of the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) on the upcoming Adult Soccer Fest this summer in Denver, Colorado. Riddle is known as the Ambassador of American Adult Soccer.
Soccer in the United States, of course, is either a fan sport or youth-driven. The MLS is thriving and there are programs, clinics and leagues around the country whose core purpose is to cultivate interest, and identify youth talent. The youth-soccer landscape is vast, important, and growing. But what about the rest of us?
Where can adults have fun playing competitive soccer?
What about the adults? Those of us just past the youth stage, at the middle or the opposite end of the age spectrum? What about playing soccer when your commitments mount and your time dwindles? When you still want that rush of being on the field when a goal is scored — but you admit to doing your own laundry and paying your own bills? Or when your hair grays and your eyesight dulls — when, instead of being a kid, you are driving yourself to soccer practice?
The United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA), and Duncan Riddle, are here to fill that void. Riddle — a former player and soccer executive in England, who spent nearly 10 years working for Aston Villa — is the executive director of the USASA, the association for the soccer market which has been often overlooked.
“The adult soccer market is huge and has a thriving passion for soccer, but responsibility-weary adults sometimes fail to make time to play the sport they love,” said Riddle in a recent interview. “All adults deserve the opportunity to play soccer and have fun too.”
That’s why, from July 13 to 17 in Denver, Colorado, the USASA will host the Adult Soccer Fest, the largest sanctioned adult soccer event in the United States.
“The past 20 years have seen the game become an accepted sport in the USA, played and watched by a whole generation,” Riddle said. “The base of the soccer pyramid is now supported by large numbers of adult players whose priority is to have fun.”
The tournament was founded in 1998 as the Veterans Cup and has since grown into an event attended and watched by more than 3,000 people. The atmosphere is casual and welcoming to all skill levels and adults over the age of 18.
What is USASA’s Adult Soccer Fest like? “All games are competitive,” Riddle said, “but once the final whistle blows, it’s about grabbing a beer together, meeting new people and having fun.”
The USASA’s Adult Soccer Fest is organized to let everyone enjoy great soccer. The brackets are age-specific groups — from over 30 to over 70 — and men’s and women’s open divisions, as well as three-versus-three and Paralympic divisions.
And then there is Walking Soccer, which is exactly what it sounds like. “The beautiful game, just slowed down,” said Riddle.
The attendees are a diverse crew, everyone from old college buddies getting together for a few days — “They reunite once a year to roll back the years and socialize,” Riddle said — to families looking for an active vacation in an ideal location. The USASA held the event in America’s Finest City – San Diego, in 2012 and 2013.
This year, the Adult Soccer Fest is in Colorado’s capital – a city full of outdoor adventures. Home of the nearby Rocky Mountains, Denver is a gorgeous metropolis with a rich cowboy history dating back to the Old West era that has grown up and has cool, hip ultramodern complexes and great sports facilities. Known as the Mile High City, Denver is teeming with craft breweries, great hiking, and dining. For those who prefer to watch from the sidelines rather than sweat on the field, Denver offers museums, galleries, theaters and yes, great shopping.
“Denver,” Riddle said, “is attractive because it offers so many outdoor activities and plenty of craft brews.”
This year, Riddle’s wants to introduce newcomers to the Adult Soccer Fest and make sure to welcome teams that haven’t attended the event before. The reason? There will be soccer, and beer, and friends — along with the opportunity to grow the sport among a demographic that is so often neglected. Time to step up and enjoy!
“Soccer brings people from all walks of life together,” Riddle said. “This event provides ideal playing opportunities in a perfect social environment.”
As USASA says, “A player’s passion for soccer only increases with age. The Adult Soccer Fest, presented by US Adult Soccer, offers opportunities for players of all ages and abilities to get back on the pitch. A week built around soccer, food and beer, the Adult Soccer Fest is the largest sanctioned adult soccer event in the United States.”