The Beautiful Game
Soccer, or fútbol as the rest of the world calls it, is having a moment here in the United States. The rise of the MLS has captured the interest of families nationwide, including those who previously were baseball or football (American) fanatics.
With this rise in interest, kids are choosing to play soccer at younger ages. Families are willing to pay for club and travel teams in the hopes that their little Johnny or Mary will be the next Ronaldo or Alex Morgan. And team travel is becoming an increasingly big part of the American soccer experience.
A Successful Soccer Tour
While many aspects of your soccer tour will be similar to a regular student tour, there are some things you’ll want to think about that are specific to a soccer related trip.
Much of your planning will center around why your team is considering a soccer themed trip. Are you playing in a tournament and if so, a specific tournament or are you open to options? Will you be participating in special training clinics? Do you just want to see live professional soccer games and tour stadiums? All of the above?
As with any student tour, whether educational, performance or sports related, consider what your ultimate goal is before moving forward. It’s often hard to do everything, especially if you’re on a time or budget crunch. (Pro Tip – Use our Tour Company Worksheet to help you narrow down your company choices. Many of the items on the checklist apply to sports tours as well.)
Now that that’s out of the way, the majority of sports tours, soccer included, will offer your group a combination of sightseeing and team training opportunities. Seeing the highlights of your host city or country is a must. Many times this is the first time your team will be traveling abroad, so don’t miss the big sites! If you’re in Rome, go see the Colosseum. If you’re in Spain, walk along Las Ramblas. You get the point. Don’t miss immersing yourselves in the history and culture. That’s all part of the international experience.
Beyond that, here are a few other activities you’ll want to consider for this type of trip:
1. Attend A Match
If seeing a live pro match is on your list of must-dos, make sure you talk to your tour company about this. You want to make sure you’re going when the pros are actually playing and you’ll want to include it in your budget. Also, be realistic about which team you want to see. It’ll be much harder (and more expensive) to get group tickets to see Messi or Ronaldo play than it will be to see one of the lower level clubs.
2. Stadium Tours
Most major stadiums offer group tour options. If you have time, you should add this to your itinerary. Stadium tours make for a fun way for your team to experience the thrill of walking on the same fields that their idols play on. In addition to learning the history of the stadium and visiting the museum, which most stadiums have, you might get to see the press box, visit the locker rooms, walk through the players’ tunnel, and marvel at the trophies in the trophy room.
3. Training Clinics And Local Matches
If your team is a bit more serious and wants to pencil in some training time, many pro teams offer training clinics. Your team will have the opportunity to train with professional coaches, who’ve trained some of the sports’ most recognizable names, in top notch facilities. Often, friendly matches against local teams are part of this training experience, giving your team the chance to compete while abroad and make new friends.
Tournaments are another animal. You’ll probably have less time to schedule team clinics or watch live pro matches and you’ll have less flexibility on dates. This is fine because you’re there to play soccer! These tournaments are unique opportunities for your team to play other teams from all over the world, making connections with like-minded kids while experiencing a new culture. The schedule will normally include an opening and closing ceremony and a minimum number of matches that your team will get to play. If the itinerary doesn’t include time to sightsee, you should ask your tour company about coming a few days early or leaving a few days after the tournament ends. Why go all that way and not explore the city too?
Soccer tours can be very similar to a regular educational tour, but if you want match play, clinic training, or if you’re considering a tournament, you should think about using a tour company that specializes in sports related tours. Here are a few to consider: