S.D. facing state tournament changes

South Dakota may face an interesting situation in the fall. There will be two series of state tournaments for high school soccer, one for school-sanctioned teams and one for club-sanctioned teams.

The high school season is run through the South Dakota State Soccer Association, which also oversees youth and club soccer in the state. The objective is to transition high school soccer to the South Dakota High School Activities Association, but budget issues have slowed the process. Just this past week, Rapid City school officials indicated that ongoing budget issues will prevent the city's schools from funding soccer, therefore leaving the programs in club status for at least another year. ESPNHS got in touch with Rapid City Journal sports reporter Danny Lawhon to find out what that decision means for state-sanctioned soccer.

* For background, there are 13 Class AA and 19 Class A boys' programs in the state. Currently, nine of those programs are sponsored through the respective school. The other 23 are funded as club programs.

* All teams, regardless of whether they are school- or club-sponsored, will continue to compete against each other in order to maintain full and competitive schedules. The difference will come playoff time.

* The South Dakota High School Activities Association is moving forward with a state tournament in the fall. As long as four Class AA schools sponsor soccer, according to Lawhon, there will be a tournament for Class AA and Class A that will be run through the state association. Any number shy of four in Class AA will result in one all-class state-sanctioned tournament. (Currently, only two Class AA programs have school-sponsored soccer: O'Gorman (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Aberdeen (S.D.).)

* At the same time, schools that have opted to remain in club status -- mostly due to budget issues -- will continue to compete for the already existing Class AA and Class A state titles as awarded through the South Dakota State Soccer Association. The bottom line, 32 programs may be competing for four state titles in the fall.

* Schools have until April 1 to make a decision of opting in to the high school state-sanctioned tournament or remaining a club team.

* Lawhon figures since the Rapid City schools have made a public decision, the Sioux Falls schools will follow that lead and remain in club status -- leaving a majority of the state's top programs competing for the South Dakota State Soccer Association state titles. Sioux Falls schools swept the boys' state titles this past fall. Lawhon also said it might take three to five years before all high school programs in South Dakota become school-sponsored sports.