Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life, being coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing MLS-Next. I’ve played in around 20 tournaments throughout my time playing at various levels. I would like to share with you my experience with must-have items at tournaments to ensure peak performance and a fun time!
Tournaments in soccer are almost always a hassle to pack your bags for.
It’s very stressful because you don’t want to travel for several hours and realize you forgot something once you arrive.
There is nothing worse than having regrets and wishing you brought something that you didn’t.
Since everyone’s needs are different and most people will have a slightly different list.
So we created a list of items that are crucial for everyone to have during a soccer tournament.
This list should also help you get a glimpse of what a tournament is like if it’s your first time attending one.
Related Article: Best Soccer Equipment for Individual Training Sessions
The 8 Most Essential Items to Take to a Soccer Tournament
Many items are completely essential at a tournament that can be forgettable at times.
Here is a list of the 9 essential items that you should take to a soccer tournament.
These items were picked by experience, and they will make your time at the tournament more fun and stress-free!
#1: Foam Roller
Foam rollers are one of the most useful tools that you can use to recover effectively from a soccer match.
They are used to massage your muscles with the pressure of your body weight for a better warm-up and quicker recovery.
As it massages the muscles, it promotes blood flow which reduces muscle tension and makes your muscles more relaxed and feel more flexible.
Eliminating tightness is great for increasing performance because it gives your muscles a greater range of motion, which doesn’t limit your movements in a game.
Foam rollers are also a great tool to help speed up recovery after your game.
We were coached to use foam rollers in my Academy team because they eliminate muscle knots, as well as speed up the release of lactic acid and other toxins from the muscle.
Eliminating knots reduces the risk of pulling or straining a muscle, and releasing lactic acid from the muscles speeds up their recovery process by decreasing soreness.
I couldn’t imagine attending a tournament without a foam roller because of how much difference it makes in my game.
After using the foam roller I can immediately tell the difference that my muscles are looser and I am more flexible.
Oftentimes even just getting rid of muscle knots helps me feel less sore before and after a game.
If you aren’t able to take a foam roller that uses body weight to massage muscles, I would recommend packing a smaller handheld roller that uses arm strength to roll out muscles.
These smaller rollers may be less effective, but they are still well worth the money and space to bring them with you to the tournament.
#2: Extra Ball
The primary reason that you should bring your own ball to a tournament, even if they are provided during games, is to keep your individual skills sharp.
Regardless of whether your team brought soccer balls or the organizers provided them, you should always have a ball at your side that you can practice skills with and move around with your teammates.
This will ensure that your muscles don’t get too tight and your touch on the ball doesn’t get rusty between matches.
In my most recent tournament in December at the MLS-Next Flex, I noticed a big difference before my second match of the day where my touch felt extremely sharp and accurate.
I was able to start the game off without having to warm up my touch during the game before turning the heat up.
Another benefit that having an extra ball provides, is that it gives you a tool to bond with your teammates.
Whether it is playing rondo’s or small-sided games between matches, it will give you a fun way to spend your break time.
This can also reduce stress or nerves that you may have going into a tough match.
Performing basic skills with your teammates can help you lose some nerves before a game, which will allow you to perform at your best even against a great opponent.
But either way, nerves are just a sign that you care so as long as you are confident in your abilities, there is nothing to worry about.
Keep in mind that you’re a great player!
A cooler has several benefits at a soccer tournament that makes it a great item to take with you.
Firstly, the most obvious benefit is that you can preserve perishable items and keep them fresh for a much longer time.
If you have to stay at the soccer fields between matches for any reason, a cooler is a must-have to preserve your food.
A cooler will keep your food from going bad and allows you to have a fresh meal between games.
You can even store fruits and other snacks in the cold cooler when it is scorching hot outside.
Another great benefit that comes with coolers is saving money.
At longer tournaments that take several days, you can save hundreds of dollars by not having to spend money in restaurants.
And honestly, it’s not only about saving money.
If you are aiming to perform at your peak in the tournament, a healthy diet is key.
Having a cooler will give you the ability to prepare your meals and eat nutritious foods.
This will give you energy throughout the day, and prevent you from feeling sluggish between matches.
Overall, coolers are a convenient and cost-effective option for storing food throughout tournaments, giving you the flexibility of having a meal whenever and wherever you want.
#4: Gallon Jugs of Water
Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do as an athlete.
Proper hydration is necessary for your body to effectively cool down your body by sweating.
Without the ability to sweat, it is easy for your body to overheat, which can have severe effects on your health.
When dehydrated, it is also easy to get muscle cramps while performing high-intensity work such as sprinting in a soccer match.
Your body will not have sufficient electrolytes to deliver to your muscles for proper function which can lead to cramps.
Blood volume will also be decreased which will affect your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles which also leads to muscle cramps.
Additionally, there are countless health risks that dehydration causes, but you get the point.
It is crucial to stay hydrated to reduce cramps, increase performance and prevent any health issues.
The best way I have found to never run out of water and stay hydrated is by having gallon jugs.
It may sound a bit overkill, but my mind completely changed when I ran out of water on a hot day with no teammates around.
It is much better to have more water than you need than to be dehydrated after a tough match under the hot sun in 95-degree weather with no clouds.
An accurate way to describe this situation is unhealthy and dangerous.
#5: First aid kit
Injuries are common in soccer, as it is a high-intensity sport that involves a lot of running, sprinting, and physical contact that puts a lot of stress on your body.
Though a first aid kit will not prevent injuries that can happen on the pitch, it will prevent them from getting worse.
Cuts, strains, bruises, and any other types of injuries can be treated with simple first aid kits that are easily stored.
First aid kits are great even for smaller injuries such as blisters, chafing, or turf burns.
All of these can be treated in a matter of minutes on the spot and you can get right back into the game without the worry of things getting worse.
Smaller injuries or discomforts happen almost every game so I highly recommend at least having some bandages, wipes, and athletic tape with you if you aren’t able to acquire a basic first aid kit.
You should also keep in mind that although most tournaments provide first-aid kits on the sideline, a single first-aid kit is provided for multiple fields that might not fulfill your needs.
It is more important to stay healthy than relying on others for something as essential as a first aid kit.
Sunscreen is absolutely a necessary item at every tournament for good reason.
I have been to many high-level tournaments and showcases, and none of them were at indoor facilities even if the weather was stormy.
It is safe to say that almost all tournaments are outdoors and it is a very rare occurrence that a tournament is held indoors.
Since during tournaments, players may be outside for the entire day is it crucial to apply sunscreen to your skin to prevent sunburns and any type of damage to your skin.
The worst that can happen is getting a bad sunburn on the first day of the tournament and having to play with it the next day.
It will hurt to put clothes on and playing under the hot sun again will only make it worse.
#7: Foldable chairs
If you aren’t attending your tournament alone, foldable chairs will allow anyone coming with you to comfortably spectate your matches.
Unless it is a high-profile tournament or knockout match, there will likely be no bleachers or benches for spectators to sit on except for grass.
Grass can be fun for a short while but for 2 hours it can be especially tiring and painful for the lower back.
Turf fields are even worse, they are dirty and heat up to temperatures that can burn your skin.
If you are attending the tournament alone, foldable chairs can still be nice to have between matches.
Many tournaments will only allow a few hours of rest between games, during which most players will stay at the soccer fields, which is uncomfortable and exhausting.
It is much better to rest between matches by having something to sit on instead of itchy grass or hot turf.
One of the items on this list that do not relate to performance or fitness is cash.
You should always have a certain amount of cash with you wherever you go at the tournament in case of an emergency.
Not being familiar with an area is part of attending tournaments and it is best to have some safety net to get yourself out of trouble.
Cash is widely accepted anywhere you might be, so it gives you the ability to purchase essential goods such as food or water.
It is an immediate form of payment and you do not have to rely on the internet and other electronic systems to complete a transaction, so it is a lifesaver if you are stuck somewhere.
Fortunately, I have not been in a situation where there was a dire need for cash specifically.
However, many of my tournaments are in rural areas where no phone service is available, and it’s easy to get lost.
In situations like this, it’s useful to have a couple of bucks on you to make a call with a public phone or be able to buy necessary items such as food and water.
A foam roller is one of the first items that you should pack in your bags for a tournament as it is one of the best tools for speeding up recovery, and even warming up!
Having extra an extra soccer ball at a tournament can help you keep your legs moving and becoming stiff, stay sharp on the ball and even bond with your teammates over a game of rondo.
Coolers are crucial at a soccer tournament as they can provide you with a fresh meal wherever you go, and save hundreds of dollars that you would have to spend on food at restaurants and eating out.
Running out of water is one of the worst things that can happen to you at a tournament, and one way I found that I can prevent this is to have gallon jugs of water with me at the tournament.
A first aid kit should also be packed to prevent potential injuries from getting worse and also treat minor injuries such as cuts and bruises.
Sunscreen is also crucial at a tournament as players usually play several games in a day, exposing them to a lot of sunlight and increasing the chances of a terrible sunburn.
Foldable chairs can be useful at a tournament if anybody comes with you so they can comfortably spectate your matches, or you have several hours of wait time between matches and you have to stay at the fields.
Cash is one of the best tools that you can have in an emergency situation, and I highly recommend that you take some cash with you every time so that you are prepared if you get lost, there is no service, and you need a way out.
Last but not least, an item that you should never bring to tournaments is jewelry because jewelry is expensive and easy to lose in an area that you aren’t familiar with.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Soccer Pickup Tournament’ by Izuddin Helmi Adnan (Licensed via Unsplash)
#1: ‘Batch of Soccer Balls Ready for Practice’ by Nathan Rogers (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Soccer Player Using a Foam Roller’ by Andrew Valdivia (Licensed via Unsplash)
#3: ‘Soccer Ball On Grass Field’ by Andrew Valdivia (Licensed via Unsplash)
#4: ‘Cooler on Top of a Cooler’ by Austin P (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Gallon Water Bottle’ by ALex Azabache (Licensed via Pexels)
#6: ‘Opened Up First Aid Kid’ by Mat Napo (Licensed via Unsplash)
#7: ‘Applying Sunscreen’ by Collins Lesulie (Licensed via Unsplash)
#8: ‘Foldable Camping Chair on The Beach’ by Kristaps Ungurs (Licensed via Unsplash)
#9: ‘Wallet With $20 of Cash’ by Clay Banks (Licensed via Unsplash)