This weekend, the Kern County Soccer Park might as well be the soccer capital of California a more than 115 teams from up and down the state are converging for the 28th annual Garces Soccer Festival.
After almost three decades of running the show, Vince Fanucci says the secret to success is fairly straight-forward. "It's an 8 team tournament," he said. "Times twelve."
In past years, more than 175 teams have taken part, which led Fanucci to label it, "The Biggest High School Soccer Tournament on Earth." On Friday, he jokingly said, "No one has disputed it so far."
Fanucci is an unlikely organizer. He's not a fan of the sport and doesn't have a son or daughter who ever played. Instead, he saw a need back from his time as the Garces athletic director. "They asked if there was anybody who could put on a Christmas tournament so that teams didn't have to travel all over and pay expenses so I volunteered to do it," he recalled.
The planning takes the entire year from coordinating hotels for teams to stay at, to researching schedules and past records to try and group teams in the correct brackets. But this year, his tournament is missing some teams.
At the same time, about 10 miles south is another tournament featuring 16 teams highlighted by soccer powers Centennial, Mira Monte and Ridgeview.
When asked if his tournament was a direct response to Garces' Tournament, Mira Monte athletic director Josue Valenzuela said, "Not at all. We're trying to be sensitive to all the other schools and the weekends that they have." He went on to say that he'd been trying to host a soccer tournament all four years he'd been at the school and it just happened to fall on the same weekend as the Garces Tournament.
Coincidence or not, Fanucci says he'll keep on going as long as he can. "You want to live up to people's expectations. I think that's what it is," Fanucci said in response to where he finds his passion after 28 years. "The compliment that we've always had is how well organized it is."
The championship games for both tournaments are set for Saturday afternoon.
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