Ronnie Green has big plans for the Lancer Pride Cup tournament.
The first-year East Union boys soccer coach began piecing the event together late in the summer after the former Sierra assistant was hired to take the reins at his alma mater.
“We were short on money when I took over, and in high school soccer the best way to raise funds is to host a tournament,” Green said.
The two-day competition debuts today and Saturday with 32 teams — 16 varsity and 16 frosh-soph — gathering at Legacy Fields in Tracy. Green aims to expand to 48 teams next season with hopes of luring more schools from outside the Sac-Joaquin Section. He added that representatives from four NCAA programs and three junior colleges have committed to scout out the talent at the tournament.
“It’s a nice, central location for college scouts to come see some top-tier talent from the area, and it’s at a soccer-only facility,” Green said. “It’s by far the most loaded tournament in the area. Hopefully with the base we have this year we can bring in schools from Southern California in the future.”
The 16-team varsity field features 11 Sac-Joaquin Section playoff qualifiers, and three of the clubs — No. 1 Folsom (currently 3-0), No. 7 Livingston (1-0), No. 9 East Union (4-1) — ended the 2016-17 season ranked in the section’s top 10, according to MaxPreps.
Other notable squads taking part at the Lancer Pride Cup:
uSJS Division IV runner-up Sierra (1-1-1), one of East Union’s cross-town and Valley Oak League rivals. The Timberwolves stunned Livingston in a thrilling semifinal decided in overtime.
uCentral Valley (3-1-2) ended last season with the No. 11 ranking after upsetting top-seeded East Union in the SJS Division III semifinals en route to a second-place finish. The Hawks and Livingston are both members of the Western Athletic Conference.
uMcClatchy (5-0-1) wound up at No. 22 in the MaxPreps computer rankings following a quarterfinal finish in the Division I playoffs.
uReigning Mother Lode League champion Linden (2-4-2) comes from the smallest school compared to other Lancer Pride Cup entrants but does not shy away from going toe to toe with the big boys.
uEnochs (3-0), Pitman (2-1-1) and Lodi (0-5) are some of the large-school playoff qualifiers.
uHayward (3-0) is the only out-of-section team in the field, coming from the North Coast Section.
The big get is Folsom. The Bulldogs were ranked third in the state by the end of 2016-17 and No. 16 nationally. They went undefeated on the field in 21 matches but forfeited their 5-0 SJS Division I semifinal win over Sheldon for using an ineligible player.
“I went for the biggest teams first, and getting Folsom to commit early was huge,” Green said. “Then some of the other top teams followed.”
Fairfield (0-1), Chavez (1-1), Bear Creek (1-0), Grace Davis (0-1) and Mountain House (0-3) round out the competition.
Green used last year’s MaxPreps rankings to balance out the tournament’s quartet of four-team pools. The top-two seeded teams in each group will not square off.
The first-place teams — determined by a point system and tiebreakers — will be placed in a four-team bracket for the overall championship on Saturday. The rest of the field will be separated into three other brackets based on their place in pool play.
“There is going to be some amazing, top-level soccer played in all brackets Saturday,” Green said.
Each match will last 60 minutes (down from 80 in non-tournament contests). Semifinals that end in ties will go straight to a penalty-kick shootout. Finals ending in stalemates after regulation will be decided by two five-minute overtime periods and, if necessary, followed by PKs.
The action begins at 9 in the morning on both days. Championship and consolation finals take place at 12:45 and 2 p.m. Saturday. There’s a $5 gate fee for spectators, and concession stands will be available.
A $5 gate fee and consession stands are included.