Soccer – With a Slightly Different Look, NJSIAA Tournament is on in 2020
The NJSIAA has held the line on its intention to provide a fall sports season in New Jersey and its plans for boys and girls soccer tournaments are now officially part of that plan.
The state's governing interscholastic sports body released updated NJSIAA Tournament regulations on Wednesday, which look similar to a normal season's state tournament with a few key distinctions.
This year's NJSIAA Tournaments in both boys and girls soccer will end with the sectional final round and will be completed in a span of no more than eight days, with just one day off between rounds. The boys tournament is slated to run from Saturday, Nov. 14 to Saturday, Nov. 21 while the girls tournament begins on Monday, Nov. 16 and ends on Sunday, Nov. 22.
All games, from the opening round through the sectional finals, will be held at the home site of the higher seed.
Like much of the regulations for this year's tournament and so much else pertaining to the 2020-21 school year, the current plans are subject to change and the NJSIAA has indicated not only a willingness to be flexible but an expectation for it.
"The main idea is to give the kids some kind of meaningful season and postseason so that they have something to strive for," NJSIAA assistant director Jack Dubois said. "We want anybody who wishes to participate to be able to participate if possible, so we are going into this trying to provide that opportunity and that might require everyone involved to be flexible in certain areas."
Last year's boys and girls group classifications will be the model for separating teams into sections, but the number of entrants and proximity between schools could alter the sections relative to what they they were in the fall of 2019.
There is a deadline of Oct. 26 to submit a request to opt out of the tournament but teams may contact Dubois or fellow assistant director Al Stumpf directly between Oct. 27 and Nov. 2 if circumstances arise that require said team or teams to opt out.
The power-point model of seeding is also scrapped for this season, at least partially. Power points will be one of four criteria considered by a seeding committee that will determine where each entrant will be seeded. The other three, according to the posted regulations, are record, winning percentage and strength of schedule.
Dubois said the members of the seeding committee are not currently finalized but they will most likely be athletic administrators selected with the intention of representing different parts of the state.
"You don't want to have too many people in the room because then you start to muddy the waters, but we'll look to have some different voices from different areas so that we have a good representation of the state," DuBois said. "We still have power points, so we're going to be relying on that, but you might have some different circumstances to consider this year so we're going to be flexible."
The maximum number of games played allowed for each team this season is 14, with the regular-season ending on Nov. 12. The tournament cutoff date - the final day from which games will be considered in seeding - is Monday, Nov. 2 and the seeding meeting is Thursday, Nov. 5.
The lone in-game change noted in the regulations is that in-game officials will have the discretion to disqualify, without warning, any player or coach who confronts an official in a manner that violates their personal space. Disqualifications of that type will not carry with them the usual accompanying two-game suspension and will allow for the team to replace an offending player. If the violating player or coach persists in their confrontation, the official has the discretion to issue a straight red card, which does result in the loss of a player on the field (if the offender is a player) and a two-game suspension. The confrontation-with-officials modification will apply to both the regular season and the postseason.
The establishment of an NJSIAA Tournament that mostly resembles a traditional state postseason tournament in N.J. - at least up until the sectional finals - signals the cancellation of the 2020 Shore Conference Tournament. It is still possible member Shore Conference schools will opt to devise and compete in a conference tournament in lieu of the NJSIAA Tournament, but the framework is now set for a regular season that transitions right into sectional tournaments - which are an ultimate goal for players and coaches throughout the state.