CINCINNATI (October 9, 2023) – Every year, the first full weekend of October means one thing for those in Mason, Ohio: The Cincinnati TOPSoccer Fall Classic. Continuing the annual tradition that started 25 years ago, many showed up to this year’s event, which featured a parade, opening ceremony, and games.
In addition to the players and their families, more than 300 buddies, volunteers and coaches met up at the Hope Church’s fields for a weekend of fun. Participants came from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and even West Virginia for the first time. It was a true testament to the growth of TOPSoccer around the United States as it marked a 900% increase in player attendance dating back to the first Fall Classic in 1998, which Randy and Lisa Corey pioneered.
Even though the inaugural event only had one inflatable and a few motivated volunteers, the goal was still the same back then: Give players with diverse abilities an event like the fall tournaments their neurotypical peers attended with local recreation and travel programs.
TOPSoccer is an adapted soccer program for players with disabilities. One such player, Austin (18), plays for the Cincinnati North Kickers’ TOPSoccer team, and while he enjoys playing with his friends, Austin really loves the opportunity for competition. One of Austin’s club mates, Sam (15), who is partially blind and has paralysis on the right side of his body, was recruited to join the Kickers by his friends and basketball teammates. Sam’s mother, Bianca Simonson, shared that TOPSoccer has given her son a space to be active and with friends. Simonson added that Sam, who comes from a very athletic family, did not have equal opportunities in sports because of his differences, but TOPSoccer changed that. “The bond that these boys have as teammates is beautiful,” Simonson added.
The 2023 Fall Classic’s theme was “Happy Birthday!,” and was created two years ago when a father was overheard asking his son if he had a good time at that year’s event. His son’s answer: “Yes! This makes up for all the birthday parties I never get invited to!” The blunt reality of this comment provided insight as to what many TOPSoccer players feel in their daily lives, so the Coreys were inspired to throw a big birthday bash that everyone was invited to attend.
The Fall Classic begins with a parade similar to the Parade of States held at the US Youth Soccer Championship events. This year’s iteration was led by a local high school marching band and Northern Kentucky University’s dance team. Players carried in banners, with each state and program represented. Shortly after the opening ceremony wraps up, the games begin. There are 11-a-side matches for the older groups and both 3-a-side and 5-a-side for the younger players, with a focus on making sure every player has success. The TOPSoccer Fall Classic also had two fields set up on parking lots for wheelchair users to compete in end-to-end action with a large soccer ball.
In addition to the games, the Fall Classic featured disability services agency booths, carnival games, raffles, and entertainers. Each player was provided a lunch and a cupcake for the birthday celebration. Two attendees each excitedly said that this was their favorite day of the year.
In a day full of fun, goals were scored, saves were made, and high-fives were given. “It was an amazing event, so well organized and focused on the athletes,” said US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Committee Chair Dave Robinson. “The spirit of community was awesome, and the way that Randy Corey opened his arms to programs around the Midwest is what TOPSoccer is all about — inclusion!”