As you all know, NC finally eliminated offside for U10 play at the Challenge (travel) level. One of the unanswered questions after this decision was made was what the tournaments would do as they weren’t affected by the decision. One of the bigger regional preseason tournaments in Winston-Salem, that used to be Classic only, added Challenge divisions this year. Their rules stated they would abide by current NCYSA Challenge rules, which for U10 meant no offside and one referee.

That lasted about three hours…

My daughter’s first match was interesting. Neither team was blatantly cherry picking, but the girls realized they could stay a few steps ahead of the defense and receive a pass on the run so they were 1v1 with the keeper. It wasn’t pretty and the score was really lopsided. Then at their second match a few hours later, suddenly the referee was calling offside. Parents on both sides were yelling ‘Its U10! There’s no offside!’ At halftime one of our parents, who is a referee himself, chatted with the referee and asked what was up. He told him that so many early U10 matches had so much cherry picking going on and scores that were really lopsided, they had decided to start enforcing offside. Which was funny because the hosting soccer league was one that had voted to eliminate offside at U10, though it’s not clear if the decision came from the tournament committee or the referee assignor. But it still made many of us laugh. The referee said his colleagues had talked after the first round of matches and that some teams had cherry picked badly while others were pushing up far enough to leave defenders in their wake and go 1v1 with the keeper. So intentional cherry picking or not, it was causing problems. It wasn’t just coaches ‘coaching to win’. Our team’s coach never encouraged the girls to hang by the goal, but the girls figured it out in a hurry what they could now do and took advantage of it. If this tournament was any indication, the U10 season is going to be ugly. Here are the scores from both U10 girls and boys matches at 8AM or 9:30AM before they started to enforce offside: 7-5 13-2 5-2 9-0 10-0. It hadn’t struck me until I saw it happen that the lack of offside was likely to make many matches more lopsided than they would be if offside were called. With mismatched teams, the stronger team can play aggressive defense and leave the cherry pickers unmarked. The weaker team can’t and will suffer more for it.

Needless to say, this turn of events led to yet another epic offside thread on the NC Soccer Forums :) This time I started it – I couldn’t help myself.