The Greatest Tournament to Never Exist is “Coming” in February
About one month ago, I talked about how college soccer is the secret in growing soccer in America. What about celebrating greatness? There are many athletes already here in Alabama playing, both men’s and women’s soccer. What if there was a massive tournament that celebrated schools from 1A high school champions to Birmingham Legion FC, the biggest professional club in Alabama? Let’s get into it.
How Would The Dixie Cup Work?
Despite being a song that Toby Keith sang that I unfortunately know every word to, Red Solo Cups are pretty useful. They’re the best recepticals for barbeques, tailgates, fairs, and festivals. They’re cheap and disposable. After 14 years they are decomposable. Unlike my home, they are unforeclosable. They’re also great for deciding the best soccer team in the State of Alabama. Why a Dixie Cup? It’s the Heart of Dixie, and why wouldn’t you want a Golden Dixie Cup Trophy?
My vision would be like a US Open Cup lite, but for the state of Alabama. The “lower division” teams would enter in the “qualifying stages”, or better known as the state championship playoffs. The winners of the playoffs, aka the state champions, would enter into the Dixie Cup in Round 1.
High Schools Enter
In Alabama, there are 4 state champions. A winner for 1A-3A, a winner for 4A-5A, one for 6A, and one for 7A. The 1-7 number signifies the size of the school. 1A signifies the smallest school, for example Lynn High School with 270 students enrolled. That compared to Hoover High School which has 2,750 students enrolled, which is a 7A school.
College Teams Enter
The High School teams will be drawn to play against college teams. All of the college teams will enter at the same time, to keep from causing too much confusion. It will be a random draw. A high school team could draw a college team or another high school team. Same for the universities, there are no guarantees of an “easy draw”, much like the US Open Cup.
In men’s soccer, from what I could tell, there are 10 colleges with a university sanctioned program. In women’s soccer, there are 18 colleges with university sanctioned programs.
Semi-Pro Teams Enter
From what I can find, there are three semi-professional teams on the women’s side, and three semi-professional team in the men’s side. The women being North Alabama SC, Alabama FC, and FC Birmingham, the men being North Alabama SC, FC Birmingham, and AFC Mobile. This is where things become hairy when evening out the rounds.
Professional Teams Enter
My initial idea is to have the professional teams enter at the same time, but that would also mean that it would be 5 teams. My work around is Huntsville City FC would enter in Round 3 and Birmingham Legion FC would enter in the Semi Finals.
For the women’s side, it will unfortunately not have a professional team unless they come from out of state. This is not a horrible solution, getting Orlando, North Carolina, Louisville, or another club to come down to face the Champion of the Cup as a friendly. We’ll play with that idea a little.
Let’s say this starts in 2023, we would have 1A-3A Bayside Academy HS , 4A-5A Indian Springs HS, 6A Mountain Brook HS, 7A Daphne HS in the tournament as the reigning state champions.
EVERYTHING BELOW IS JUST AN EXAMPLE OF THE TOURNAMENT
The first round idea was to be completely randomized so teams could possibly see a different area around the state. These selections will be a random draw out of the trophy: The Golden Solo Cup. I also wanted the high schools to have home field advantage over the colleges in the first round.
The second round would be more regionalized. This is so we could get some possible derby matches like Huntington College vs Auburn-Montgomery. This would also allow for the crowds to get bigger as the stakes get bigger. The third round would stay as regional as possible. This also allows more derbies like Huntsville City FC vs North Alabama SC (a proper #SoccerWarz Derby). Schools like Mobile and Huntington in the Third Round would be drawn out of the Golden Solo Cup for home team.
The Semi Finals would be centralized in Birmingham at Protective Stadium. This would be like the Wembley Stadium experience in the FA Cup Semi Finals and Finals. This would lead to dream derbies for some teams like FC Birmingham vs Birmingham Legion and put darling teams like University of Mobile in the spotlight. The Finals would also be hosted in Protective Stadium. The example of Huntsville City FC vs Birmingham Legion FC would be fun for the #SoccerWarz fans. We could also see a really cool meeting of two teams who, otherwise, would NEVER play each other outside of the actual US Open Cup.
What if for a GRAND FINAL, the winner of the final takes on an MLS team like Nashville SC? This would fall into the timeline where they would be making their final preparations for the season. On top of that Huntsville City FC is already in the tournament, so much of their squad will already be in Birmingham for the match. Worst come to worst, Huntsville takes on their parent club.
Because the women’s side has 22 teams entering the first round (18 colleges, 4 high schools), my initial thought is to split the games into two brackets, but that also becomes a bit weird as there are 25 total teams in this tournament. Where can we gain extra contenders for the heavily coveted Dixie Cup? For it to work properly with two sides, we would need at least 1 extra contender.
In order to make it easy on me, I am going to make it a 24 team tournament with the immediate future of Alabama FC unknown. While we know that they will exist, we don’t know in what league or capacity, so we will make it a 24 team league with all teams entering at the same time. Even that is rough because we end up with a Super 6, and not a Final 4 or Elite 8.
Let’s get weird.
How do you deal with a Super 6 Semi Final? Well, a group stage, of course. Each team would play each team, naturally. Whomever finishes top of their group goes on to the finals. Would this be a more “fair” way to find out who is the best? Probably, but it would also be A LOT on the bodies. The teams that end up in the finals would play 5 games in a very short period of time, and likely two matches in one day with group stages. That said, it would be uniquely Alabama. How many other competitions have a group stage semi final?
Overall, the first two rounds for each side of the bracket are straight forward. The state champions would be randomly drawn in with the semi-professional and college squads. The state champions would get the home field advantage, of course. The only exception being if two high school teams draw each other, then the “smaller” school gets to host. Is it a perfect system? No, but we’re also having group stages to decide semi finals.
But what if we didn’t want group stages? What if we wanted to make playing deeper into the tournament more worth it? Welcome to Birmingham, NWSL.
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To incentivize going farther into the tournament, The Dixie Cup is happy to announce that two NWSL teams will be joining the tournament in the third round. While it is very likely that the two NWSL squads will end up facing off in the finals, the players who get to play against professionals will be a timeless experience. This is also a great way for young, up and coming players to get scouted firsthand by teams who will want to eventually sign them.
With that said, these women’s matches will be insanely competitive. College soccer is some of the highest level of the game in the world. It does not get much better than the play you will see out of the women’s game.
Why Would This NOT Work?
- You have to get every single school and program involved. If anybody sits out, the whole schedule is ruined that I spent so long trying to figure out.
- It would be in the middle of the high school season. While it wouldn’t be impossible, it would be difficult on the 4 state champions for men’s and women’s.
- Protective Stadium might not want 10 matches in 10-14 days. Granted, it didn’t stop them from hosting the USFL, The World Games, and Legion all during the same time, but excuses. Legion Field could be a back up plan.
Why SHOULD We Do This?
Simply, to celebrate soccer. Players go unnoticed everywhere. For High School players to possibly get scouted up close and personal by a college or even a semi-professional club could be life changing. For some of these college players to go toe-to-toe with professional athletes would be a once in a lifetime experience. To have an “Open Cup” with teams like universities and high schools can participate in without joining a club would be an amazing experience for everybody involved.
It certainly would be a lot of logistics and teams may not want to participate, but for the teams that would, it would allow a statewide celebration for a beautiful game.