After enduring months without competitive soccer, players from more than 50 area clubs will have a chance to compete this weekend in the second annual Penn Fusion Summer Showcase not only against other area teams but in front of college coaches.
Some 90 Division III and Junior College coaches have registered for the showcase, which comes as most programs have already canceled or postponed the fall season due to concerns over the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. About 40 programs were represented when it was held for the first time last summer.
While not sanctioned for Division I and II coaches to be on site, a video service will enable players to get something they haven’t been able to get in the past four months: video highlights.
“I think for the juniors and seniors, it could be one of the few opportunities that they get to showcase their talents and who knows what the recruitment process will look like going forward but I think that you know talking to a lot of the high school age players this week, they’re just looking forward to getting out there,” said Mark Thomas, executive director of Penn Fusion Academy, which is part of West Chester United.
Penn Fusion is partnered with APL Tournaments for the event, which will take place on fields in West Chester, Downingtown, Conshohocken and comes with limits on capacity and other safety precautions that have become commonplace in the return of youth sports during a pandemic.
The return to play process has been a gradual one for area clubs, which have been following strict protocols and return-to-play plans. Penn Fusion only recently transitioned to contact play after several weeks of no contact training and only allowed intra-club scrimmages in the past week.
“We still have safety health checks in place for all players and staff we have staggered start times to sessions, individual water and equipment stations, coaching staff wearing masks throughout events,” said Thomas, who oversees a program with some 1,200 players across 70-plus travel teams. “So we’re still taking things very, very seriously.”
More than 130 boys and girls teams from 50-plus clubs will compete at the U15-U19 levels this weekend. In addition to the hosts, area clubs like FC Delco, Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals, Philadelphia Lone Star, Vereinigung Erzbebirge, Lehigh Valley United and West-Mont United have teams in the competition along with several other clubs from the area and the region.
“There’s gonna be some really high-level regional based teams,” Thomas said. “We’re thinking in future years this event should become a fixture on the calendar almost as that last event before ECNL level players go off to to play high school soccer.”
More information on the showcase is available at pennfusion.org/tournaments/summer-showcase.