Monterrey Rayados and the birth of the SeaWorld Copa Rayados Internacional
CF Monterrey Rayados has long been one of the strongest professional clubs in Mexico's LigaMX, both on the field and off the field. Due in part to both club leadership and long-term vision, the club has recently enjoyed a golden age of success, with three consecutive CONCACAF Championships and trips to the FIFA Club World Cup.
Off the field, the club will be opening their new stadium, Estadio de Futbol Monterrey, bringing a state-of-the-art facility to expand capacity for its fanatical fanbase from its current 36,000 to more than 50,000. This is welcome news, with home games being sold out for years and added amenities and opportunities for sponsors.
This same long-term vision has translated on the field with their youth academy (fuerzas basicas), one of the best developers of first-team talent in Mexico over the past 10 years. The fuerzas basicas teams of Monterrey Rayados have regularly won and competed for youth national titles at the U13, U15, U17 and U20 levels, but more important has been the number of players that have progressed to the professional level. At the height of the Rayados' recent "Golden Age” of 2010-13, more than half of the first-team players rose through the ranks of Rayados' fuerzas basicas.
As part of both its ongoing expansion and commitment to its fuerzas basicas, CF Monterrey Rayados will now host the SeaWorld Copa Rayados Internacional tournament in San Antonio, Texas!
Competition is an important ingredient of player development and the SeaWorld Copa Rayados Internacional is an integral part of Rayados' programming. For more than a decade, Rayados has complemented their league play with international trips to the U.S. for friendlies and tournament play. Rayados has been a regular participant at the Dallas Cup dating back to 1984, and has won tmore Dallas Cup Championships (15) than any other club! This planted the seed.
In 2011, Rayados began to implement a plan to connect and grow stronger relations in the United States through its fanbase and the youth soccer community. Thus the SeaWorld Copa Rayados Internacional, which is designed to be a mixture of a "Dallas Cup"-style major tournament and the Copa Rayados that the club currently hosts for its soccer schools in Monterrey. The goal is to embrace a combination of Mexican and U.S. teams, playing styles, quality and culture.
The City of San Antonio, with a large population of Monterrey transplants and fans, central geography, city support and good facilities, was identified as the host city. With the city of San Antonio and San Antonio Sports as partners, the Copa Rayados Internacional has a home in Central Texas. SeaWorld San Antonio has been added as a title sponsor in 2014 to host the Opening Ceremonies at the marine theme park with a special Shamu (Killer Whales) Show to kick off the tournament.
Thanksgiving of 2013 was the first year of the tournament, which brought in 40 international teams from Mexico, El Salvador and Nigeria, plus 120 U.S.-based teams from California to Texas to Florida. U.S. Soccer approved the tournament for USDA participation, one of the few tournaments in the U.S. to receive this distinction. The first year saw five Mexican pro club academies participate across five different divisions: Rayados, Santos Laguna, Correcaminos, UNAM Pumas, and Chivas Guadalajara. Soccer School affiliates of Tigres and Pachuca also participated, along with MLS Academiesfrom the Houston Dynamo and the Colorado Rapids.
But, it wasn't just the major pro clubs — we also had top youth teams from Mexico, beginning with the Under-10 division, which sent four teams from Mexico alone! The level of competition immediately made the tournament one of the most competitive in the country.
“The tournament is important to the club for many reasons," notes Nicolas Martellotto, the director of Fuerzas Basicas and a club executive. "We want to create a special event where everyone experiences a great tournament [with] international competition, and grow the Rayados family! It's great to bring our fuerzas basicas teams to compete, as well as mix with soccer schools and other youth programs that we don't see on a regular basis."
All the divisions are very competitive, but the Under-15 age group was and is the traditional strongest division. As the pro clubs in Mexico use this event as preparation for the FMF national championship in January, and with U.S. Soccer Development Academies eligible to compete at this age, the level is exceptional. The 2013 tournament saw quarterfinals of:
The all-Mexican semifinals saw Rayados and Santos Laguna advance, with Santos taking the U15 Gold Championship.
Scouting is also an important feature during the tournament, with great responses from both college coaches and pro scouts. From Rayados' pro scouts, 20 players were identified and five were offered official trials at the club. Now that the tournament and the quality of the tournament is past its first year, these numbers and opportunities will continue to grow.
The 2014 tournament will also see the expansion to include girls teams in the Under 14 and younger ages. The FMF is looking at participating with their FMF regional teams in the 2001 girls division. Growth is expected to reach 250-plus teams with 60-plus from Mexico. Interest is growing with teams from California to Canada.
Tournament director Scott Spencer comments, "It's exciting to see the teams from small clubs to pro clubs, from Mexican to American teams, young and old come together to compete during the SeaWorld Copa Rayados Internacional! We hope to continue to grow the event and have it become a mainstay on the calendar of Texas teams for many years to come!"
For more information about the SeaWorld Copa Rayados Internacional and CF Monterrey Rayados, see http://www.coparayados.com or call the tournament offices at 1-210-305-4821 [USA] or +52-81-1099-0041 [Mexico].