Jim Martella is Stepping Down as Chairman of the Event – Here he Speaks Out On the Growth of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series in the Last 20 Years
Each summer, the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series crowns the boys and girls National Champion in the U13 through U19/20 age groups.
The finals are a culmination of a year-long series of competitions at the state and regional levels, which provides approximately 185,000 players on over 10,000 teams from 55 US Youth Soccer State Associations the opportunity to showcase their soccer skills against the best competition in the nation.
Youth Soccer News: US Youth Soccer continues to provide aspiring youth soccer players with the opportunity to compete on a national stage.
Jim Martella, Chairman of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series, has served his position for the past 20 years and enjoys providing players with a platform to showcase their skills at the highest level.
While stepping down as event chair, Martella will still remain on the US Youth Soccer Board of Directors.
“Jim’s 20-year service to US Youth Soccer as Chair of the National Championship Series Committee has propelled our state, regional and national events to unparalleled heights, making them the finest in all of youth sports,” said Chris Moore, CEO –
US Youth Soccer.
“Jim’s leadership and relentless commitment to excellence have resulted in a stronger committee and even stronger NCS events,” said Moore. “We will always be grateful to Jim who will leave an extraordinary legacy and indelible mark on the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series for many years to come.”
Angie Eliason, Director of Event Management – US Youth Soccer said, “Jim’s unbelievable dedication and hard work grew our National Championship series to what it is today — and amazing opportunity for our youth soccer players to compete at the highest level and earn the title of National Champions.”
SoccerToday spoke with Martella at the 2017 National Championship while at the fields of the Toyota Soccer Complex on the growth of the annual tournament.
Diane Scavuzzo: This is your last US Youth Soccer National Championship after 20 years — What was this event like 20 years ago?
Jim Martella: It was very different — 20 years ago there were a lot fewer youth soccer teams competing in the National Championship. Youth soccer has grown tremendously.
We didn’t play on fields like the Toyota Soccer Complex, and the level of teams have certainly improved over that time.
Diane Scavuzzo: If you were to turn back time, would you have imagined the championship to look like this today?
Jim Martella: The first event I went to was in 1985. It was very different. We had two age groups – just the U16s and U19s – and we played two separate weekends.
We had girls U16s and U19s, who competed in Washington, and then the next weekend, we had the boys compete in St. Louis, Missouri.
We used local referees from the area and there were a couple of banners that said US Youth Soccer and National Championships — and, that was it.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think people pay too much attention to championships or do you think these competitions help player development?
Jim Martella: I think there great tournaments like the National Championship help player development.
I’ve talked to people who played in this tournament decades ago and they still can give you a replay of their entire game.
Diane Scavuzzo: I believe the National Championship creates life-long memories. What is one of your favorite memories?
Jim Martella: I had a son that played in the tournament in 1989, and he can tell you a play-by-play. They came in second at the McGuire Cup – the U19 Boys competition.
Diane Scavuzzo: Looking around at the fields — what are you going to miss most?
Jim Martella: I am still on the Board of Directors — so I will still be here next year watching the competition — just not operating the event. So I plan on walking the fields and enjoying it — without being responsible for the details.
Diane Scavuzzo: What’s been the greatest challenge?
Jim Martella: We want to make this a great event for the players. We have worked with the referees and complexes to make sure that we provide a great, high-quality championship with the right surfaces and quality officiating — in order to give them the experience to remember.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many kids started out competing to reach this National Championship?
Jim Martella: We had over 10,000 teams across 55 state associations start in this competition. Now we are down to the final 96 teams.
We take 40 youth soccer teams from the National League, and the remainder comes from the regional championships.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do the champions receive?
Jim Martella: Each age group is awarded a unique National Championship trophy.
We give first and second place medals to teams that are playing. The ones that did not advance to the final competition compete for a third place medal.
Diane Scavuzzo: If there is one thing you have seen — after so many years of experince – what makes a championship team?
Jim Martella: The level of coaching and players is so much different from what we had 20 years ago. It’s not comparable. Everybody has become more sophisticated. Each team has technical directors and directors of coaching helping the teams.
20 years ago we had very few professional youth soccer coaches. Back then, there were a lot of parent-coaches who were just doing part-time work.
Diane Scavuzzo: When you look at the teams that claim the title of USYS National Champions — what do you see? A different commitment to win in their eyes?
Jim Martella: I think these youth soccer teams prepare for a long time to reach this National Championship. For the U19s, they have prepared for the last seven or eight years with many of the teams staying together to remain highly competitive.
The players that win the National Championship have a deep passion for the game of soccer. A lot of times the teams receiving the third place medals are the teams we see the following year winning the championship. So, we always say, “See you next year.”
More on the US Youth Soccer National Championship Trophies