Soccer, generally considered the “world game,” begins its high school season in Europe on a considerably smaller scale.

DODDS-Europe is extending the regional-play concept it developed for the basketball season to the soccer schedule. As in basketball, divisional play will return for the European tournaments, set for May 21-24 in the Kaiserslautern military community.

Coaches around Europe seem evenly split about regional play.

Predictably, the larger schools, which have sufficient players to field junior varsity teams, worry about the lack of games for their JV players when facing same-region small schools that don’t have JV squads.

The small schools appear to welcome competition against their larger neighbors as a means of improving their teams in preparation for the tournaments, even at the risk of more game-shortening courtesy-rule victories.

“When you have to play a school which doesn’t have a JV team, it does hurt,” Mannheim girls coach John Crockett wrote in an e-mail. “What player wants to practice all week and not get to play?”

More than individual disappointment is involved, added Dan Nukala, coach of the Division I Ramstein boys team.

“I think the JV programs can be shortchanged in the new concept,” Nukala e-mailed this week. “For us [in Region II], all the teams but one have JV teams, so we don’t really suffer in that regard. I can see how it might be a problem for teams in other areas, though.”

On the borderline between large and small schools is D-II SHAPE, whose girls coach is Shawn Whitehurst.

“I don’t mind playing up to Division I,” he wrote shortly before losing 5-1 to D-I International School of Brussels on Wednesday in the season opener. “It gives us an opportunity (for) very tough competition.”

Also on Whitehurst’s six-game regional regional schedule, however, are Alconbury, Brussels and Menwith Hill, all D-IV teams without JVs.

“The big issue for coaches is preparing for the tournament,” he continued. “… Playing Division I teams will prepare us for that. Playing against Division IV teams will not.”

Whitehurst’s fellow D-II coach, Billy Ratcliff of the Vilseck boys, also has the tournament on his mind. Playing in a region with Ansbach and Patch of D-II and Bamberg and Hohenfels of D-III, Ratcliff isn’t overly enthusiastic about the travel-cost savings versus the competition loss that regional organization brings.

“Although the regional concept saves money, it doesn’t do a lot to prepare you to play at tournament,” he said, claiming the “talent and speed” of the teams they face at tournament time are greater than what they see during the regular season. “That hurt us during basketball, I feel.”

Playing the likes of Ansbach, Patch and Vilseck, on the other hand, appeals to Shawn Rodman of Division III Hohenfels. His 2006 Tigers were the only non-Italian school ever to win a European D-III championship.

“I think the addition of AFNORTH and (defending D-IV champion) Milan to Division III will make things even tougher for us than they were before,” he wrote. “I’m hoping playing the bigger schools will make us better.”

Whatever their coaches think of the regional structure, most of the 29 schools playing the six- or seven-game regional schedules kick off their seasons Saturday. They’ll re-form into their former divisions for the European tournaments, in which they’ll be joined by the Ankara and Lajes boys and girls, Incirlik and Rota boys and Bahrain girls to determine the 2008 champs.

Defending European champions


Division I—LakenheathDivision II—Black Forest AcademyDivision III—Marymount International School of RomeDivision IV—Milan


Division I—RamsteinDivision II—VilseckDivision III—HanauDivision IV—Brussels

2008 regional lineups

(Divisional status in parentheses)Region I—Alconbury (IV), Brussels (IV), International School of Brussels (I), Lakenheath (I), Menwith Hill (IV), SHAPE (II)Region II—AFNORTH (III), Baumholder (III), Bitburg (II), Kaiserslautern (I), Ramstein (I)Region III—Black Forest Academy (II), Hanau (IV), Heidelberg (I), Mannheim (II), Wiesbaden (II), Würzburg (III)Region IV—Ansbach (II), Bamberg (III), Hohenfels (III), Patch (II), Vilseck (II)Region V—American Overseas School of Rome (III), Aviano (II), Marymount International School of Rome (III), Milan (III), Naples (II), Sigonella (IV), Vicenza (III)

Saturday’s games

(Boys and girls at same sites)Baumholder at Kaiserslautern; Mannheim at Bitburg; Patch at Ramstein; Vilseck at Ansbach; Hohenfels at Bamberg; Alconbury at Lakenheath; Menwith Hill at Lakenheath JV; Wiesbaden at Würzburg; Heidelberg at Hanau.

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