Region III Soccer Championships draw coaches from all over

Coaches from conferences ranging from the Horizon League to the Big 12 watched players who were already committed to their schools, evaluated players they were interested in recruiting and occasionally marked down younger players to keep an eye on for the future.
BY RHIANNON WALKER Staff Writer rwalker@opubco.com Published: June 26, 2013
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photo - U.S. YOUTH SOCCER REGION III CHAMPIONSHIPS / YOUTH SOCCER TOURNAMENT: 96 Lobos Rush Blue (TN) Chad Riesenbeck, left, and TUSA Gold (NC) Jonathan Giacona during the 2013 Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championship in Edmond, Okla. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
U.S. YOUTH SOCCER REGION III CHAMPIONSHIPS / YOUTH SOCCER TOURNAMENT: 96 Lobos Rush Blue (TN) Chad Riesenbeck, left, and TUSA Gold (NC) Jonathan Giacona during the 2013 Youth Soccer Southern Regional Championship in Edmond, Okla. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Of the 208 teams competing in the Region III Championships, at least 19 were from Oklahoma. Mike Cook, the women's coach for the University of Central Oklahoma, said the championships were not only good for showing the talent within the state, but also showing the state's growing culture of soccer.

“It's great for the state, it's great for our city, (and) it's good for people to see that the talent of Oklahoma is as good as other states (talent),” Cook said. “It says a lot for the Edmond Soccer Club and the soccer here in Oklahoma that they think enough of us to have the Regionals here.

“Most coaches like to stick to regional tournaments, within the region that they play in, because those are the players that are probably going to come to their schools. … So (we're) trying to find players, that you see here, that might come to Oklahoma; that's always a good thing. But I like to really stick to watching a lot of the Oklahoma teams play. We're a state school, and we like to support our state.”

The regionals were last held in Oklahoma in 1999.

Soccer culture within Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas has changed dramatically in just the last year. On Feb. 14, Oklahoma City was awarded a Premier Developmental League franchise, and a few weeks ago, it was announced that a North American Soccer League team is coming to the city for 2014.

Cook said the culture was strong when he arrived in Oklahoma in 1983, but he has seen it improve over the years.

“Soccer's been very big,” Cook said. “It's been good and strong, but its definitely gotten stronger. It's gotten a lot better. We've got a lot more kids in Oklahoma going to different places all across the country to play, so the soccer level here in Oklahoma is very, very strong.”