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Copa Sao Paulo de Juniores Began this weekend

Canuck Oranje

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This must be the biggest U-20 tournament on the planet. 88 teams from around Brazil converge onto the state of Sao Paulo to determine who takes home winning honours. This tournament is so big that Sao Paulo FC´s win over host Sao Carlos in the opening game Saturday took the headline over Brazil´s upcoming U-20 game against Chile today.

To give a North American perspective, this is March Madness or the Memorial Cup (all at once) and all in one State. The furthest game from the city of Sao Paulo are those hosted in Ribeirao Preto (I think?) about three hours away. Three groups (of 22) began play yesterday and the rest begin today. I will be attending a game this afternoon but I suspect if I stayed home I could (if I was allowed) watch U-20 soccer from 9am to the Brazilian u-20 game against Chile which begins around 8:30 - 9pm (Sao Paulo time).

Anyone who wants to see the reason why Brazil is a powerhouse in men´s soccer needs to see this tournament before making a judgement because the Math is revealing. While I haven´t yet seen a game live, the quality of what I have seen on TV so far would not be out of place in Canada (World U-20 tournament)this summer.

The second point that needs to be made clear is that this is not a tournament where the big professional clubs show their dominance over the small clubs. Small clubs have won this tournament and all four semi-finalists in 2006 were teams from small clubs (and strangely all based in the State of SP). In fact, the Internacional team that would have included Alexandre Pato last year did not make the quarterfinals of this tournament.

How seriously is tournament taken? I can give an example of one mid-sized club (Sao Bento) who have been training together 5 days per week since July. This team took all of its players into a closed residential training camp beginning just after Christmas. Players were only allowed to visit their parents and homes for a few hours over New Year´s eve with a commitment to return by a specified time on the morning of New Year´s day. As an aside, this is particularly hard on Brazilian mothers because the umbilical cord is never completely severed by this age. This is game day and I know that parents of players on this team have not been notified of the starting lineup (suspect some push by the club for friends and family to attend is involved).

Now for the Math. First, the Sao Bento U-20 team is probably an average team in this tournament. It has 30 players registered and available to play in this tournament. So 88 teams X 30 players = 2,640 U-20 players playing in this tournament. While many teams do not have clear starters, there are 800 starting outfield playing positions and 88 starting goalkeeper positions in this tournament. Now imagine the scouts that must cover this tournament.

If you are interested, you can follow this tournament


or a few days later on

www.rsssf.com (Current tournaments in Brazil section)

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