Park City • Some of the college coaches in attendance of the Utah Avalanche Invitational, a college showcase for girls soccer, joked that the Invitational must be the biggest of its kind in the history of Utah athletics. That very well may have been right.
With 85 teams from the western United States participating in the inaugural tournament, spreading across multiple facilities in Park City from June 3-5, the event is already being marked down as a must-attend showcase for college scouts and coaches. Dozens of college coaches traveled from as far as Virginia and Notre Dame to see premier club soccer competition.
Kai Edwards, head coach of Saint Mary's (Calif.), was impressed with the hospitality. He also liked that the Utah Avalanche assembled an alumni team made up of athletes now playing for colleges to create another level of skill for U-18 and U-17 teams to compete against. But those factors aren't what will have him coming back.
"In the end it's talent," Edwards said. "That's what becomes most important."
Utah's best talent can compete with the best in the country, Edwards said. That talent has traditionally been found in other places than Utah. Avalanche members have spent thousands of dollars traveling all over the country to be seen by coaches who rarely cross Utah's borders. Tournaments in Utah have typically consisted mainly of teams within those borders, and, while the talent in Utah is valuable to out-of-state coaches, recruiting budgets only stretch so far and maximum efficiency must be reached.
Hence, the Utah Avalanche Invitational was born. Avalanche executive director Joanna Barney has had fantastic success placing athletes on college rosters, the most recent notable case-in-point being Juan Diego junior-to-be Emily Bruder accepting Stanford's offer.
Barney says traveling around the country to showcase Utah's soccer talent is expensive and comes with limits.
"We decided it was time to bring the country to Utah," Barney said.
The country came. Coaches from around the Pac-12 and more made the trip. Prestigious clubs such as Legends and Eagles from California made the trip. Players from grade-school age into college staged games from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For players such as Bruder, club soccer showcase tournaments provide opportunities to play with and against concentrated talent, and to audition for colleges.
"It's pressure-packed," Bruder said.
Barney wants the tournament to grow. It likely will expand as long as the Avalanche can muster enough playing space. More important to Barney and the Avalanche, respect and awareness of Utah soccer are growing.
Soccer making a splash in Utah
The inaugural Utah Avalanche Invitational showcased girls soccer teams from all over the western United States.
The Park City event, created to bring competitive club soccer to Utah instead of shipping it out, established itself as a valuable tool to college coaches around the country.