Fifth Annual Soccer Palooza Passes Through Wethersfield
WETHERSFIELD - For around 7,000 three-versus-three soccer teams throughout the nation, all roads lead to Walt Disney World in Florida--the site of KickIt’s Martin Luther King Day final--but for around 100 teams competing in the fifth annual New England Soccer Palooza, that journey runs through Wethersfield.

       Wethersfield’s George D. Ritchie Soccer Club hosted the regional tournament at Mill Woods Park Aug. 2 and 3. Around 100 paths ran through Wethersfield, but only a couple continued out--two teams from each of the tournament’s 10 regional competitions move on to play in the final in Walt Disney World, according to KickIt Tournament Director Bryce Thornburg.

       “We had teams from as far away as New Jersey,” said Stathis Manousos, president of the George D. Ritchie Soccer Club. “Some were from upstate New York. A little less [participants] than we had the year before, but it was still a great event.”

       The competition started with 75 state-level tournaments to filter it down to this stage, Thornburg said before the event.

       Three-versus-three soccer is a unique twist on a game traditionally played on a 110-yard field with 11 players--including goalkeepers--per side. Under this format, which both Manousos and Thornburg have said is often utilized as a training drill in soccer practices, smaller nets are used within a space that is only 40 yards long and 30 yards wide. There are no goalies.

       Those who attended the tournament got treated to more than just soccer--the event featured a Saturday night concert from Top 10 Billboard artist and Wethersfield native Jeff Pitchell.

       “He’s got a great following of people of all ages,” Manousos said. “For the soccer club it was important for us to make this a community event as well.”

       And even after this year’s New England Soccer Palooza wrapped up, the club was already thinking of ways to make it even more of one next time around. Manousos mentioned the possibility of adding a carnival for next year.

       “I think it just adds to the whole experience of the event,” he said.

       Which will take a year to plan, Manousos said.

       “We start right after the event ends,” he said. “We’re going to start planning for next year, so it’s a long process. This is a volunteer organization-we can’t get it done without the volunteers. I appreciate everyone’s time toward the cause.”