LA Galaxy’s First Cup Sets A High Bar
Dan Kennedy was an outstanding goalkeeper for 10 seasons in the MLS and last protected the net at the LA Galaxy. After retiring from professional soccer, Kennedy turned his attention to new challenges behind the scenes at this highly decorated club that has won five MLS Cups. Kennedy was responsible for the inaugural LA Galaxy Cup and deserves the credit for its success.
Youth Soccer News: This was the inaugural year for the LA Galaxy Cup and it was a smashing success. Few youth soccer tournaments are as professionally run and competitive, even after years of effort.
Created to offer a premier competition for the Boys Development Academy teams, the new tournament invited renowned clubs from around the world to compete and offered a great opportunity for players to display their talents in front of college scouts.
The LA Galaxy Cup was held from March 30 – April 1, 2018, and also offered high-level club competition for U11-U19 Boys. Held at the Orange County Great Park, in Irvine California, the LA Galaxy Cup raised the bar on youth soccer tournaments nationwide.
Here is SoccerToday’s interview with Dan Kennedy on the challenges and triumphs of the LA Galaxy Cup.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was the biggest challenge in launching the LA Galaxy Cup?
Dan Kennedy: The biggest challenge was we were selling a dream, in a way, and getting buy in. There was a momentum shift that happened, I would say, in January and February once we started announcing and securing international teams. That allowed us to start securing some of the top clubs regionally as well as teams from Northern California, Arizona, and other states.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many teams competed in the first LA Galaxy Cup?
Dan Kennedy: The LA Galaxy Cup had 100 teams from 60 clubs & 40 DAs and teams came from England, Wales, Portugal, Canada Montreal, Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, Utah, Florida, and Kansas City as well as all over California to compete.
One of our internal objectives was to create the most competitive tournament we could.
We turned away plenty of teams to make sure that we could create the most competitive competition possible.
The winners of each age group at LA Galaxy Cup are:
- Boys U11 Boys 2007 Club | Los Angeles United Football Academy
- Boys U12 Boys 2006 DA1 | Strikers FC USSDA 06 Red
- Boys U12 Boys 2006 DA2 | Strikers FC USSDA 06 BLACK
- Boys U12 Boys 2006 Club | Pumas USA Pumas Kickers FC
- Boys U13 Boys 2005 Club | Inter-America Academy
- Boys U14 Boys 2004 DA International | FC Porto
- Boys U14 Boys 2004 DA | Scottsdale Soccer 04B Blackhawks ECNL
- Boys U15 Boys 2003 DA International | Real Salt Lake U-15’s
- Boys U15 Boys 2003 Club | Scottsdale Soccer 03B Blackhawks ECNL
- Boys 2002 Club | LA Galaxy South Bay B02 Elite
- Boys U17 Boys 2001 Club | Sacramento United 01B Red
- Mens U18 Boys 2000 Club | LA Galaxy OC B00 Premier Tutton
- Mens U19 Boys 1999 Club | Force 99/00 B Academy II
Diane Scavuzzo: How did you screen the teams?
Dan Kennedy: I really think that the resources we have here at the Galaxy helped create a tournament that was pretty well-rounded.
Some of the teams we knew their on-field performance, others we did not.
We used GotSoccer — it’s not a perfect system because not every team uses GotSoccer so it became an evaluation of performances over the past year.
We had a competition committee of seven people who know this landscape well and any big decision was done by a committee.
We had a little team from Montreal called the Pumas that came in and won two games, lost two games, but they were strong in their region.
We were excited about them coming in and they held their own. We hope to have more stories like that next year where we get these teams throughout the US that are looking for something different.
Diane Scavuzzo: So, did you get all the teams you went for?
Dan Kennedy: Are you kidding me? For every yes we received, we probably heard a couple of no’s but we got some great clubs to participate.
We had Manchester United, Swansea City, FC Porto, LA Galaxy, Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake and LAFC participate in year one.
Ryan Davies, lead youth development coach from Swansea City thought coming to California to play in the inaugural LA Galaxy Cup was a valuable learning experience on and off the field.
Davis is quoted in an article SWANSEA CITY’S UNDER-14S HAVE TAKEN PART IN THE INAUGURAL LA GALAXY CUP saying “It was a really well run tournament. The experience of playing at the stadium in Irvine was great for our players. It was a tough competition ….”
Diane Scavuzzo: Just think of all the people who are sad that they didn’t participate. How would you describe your vision for the tournament?
Dan Kennedy: It certainly didn’t start as my vision. It was a club vision coming from our president Chris Klein.
It was his idea, we already have all these international events going on in soccer at the professional level — why can’t we trickle that down and create some unique events or a unique event for our academy teams?
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals for the LA Galaxy Cup next year?
Dan Kennedy: Maybe 40% growth on top of what we had this year. Growth should happen organically.
Through the stories from the teams that came, we can grow the international presence. We want to grow the tournament so it is not so targeted to one international age group, but offer that competition on several different age levels.
Diane Scavuzzo: Any learning experiences from this first year?
Dan Kennedy: I think we can do a better job creating a competitive bracket for the development academy at the older age groups. Originally, when this all started, we envisioned a boys and girls tournament, and maybe the LA Galaxy Girls event can be a prep for a showcase in the spring.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you believe your tournament was so successful at getting great teams to commit?
Dan Kennedy: It’s just a snowball effect, in a way, because the conversations we had throughout the process to engage clubs, coaches, and directors … everyone’s first question was who else was playing?
Some age groups were explosive — for example, in the 2004 age group, we had so many capable teams apply, we chose to break it up into two groups.
Diane Scavuzzo: You really accomplished something wonderful and it’s hard to do that in this competitive landscape. What college coaches attended?
Dan Kennedy: We had a great turn out from DI, DII, DIII, and NAIA colleges. Coaches from CAL State, Humbolt, Lehigh, Loyola Marymount, Occidental, SDSU, Santa Clara, Sarah Lawrence College, Soka, Sonoma, Standford, Taft, U.S. Naval Academy, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCSD, USD, Whittier, Yale, and many other universities came to scout.
I was really impressed that 5 U.S. Soccer came to scout.
The high turnout of scouts from U.S. Soccer and so many top colleges shows we achieved our goal of a creating a high-quality event.
Photo Credit: Carey Schumacher – SoccerToday