Commentary

Excalibur is Camelot for SoCal soccer

Updated: December 28, 2009, 9:55 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPN RISE

The second week of holiday soccer gets started Monday with the prestigious Excalibur Girls High School Tournament in California.

This year's 32-team field features seven teams that were ranked in last week's ESPN RISE FAB 50. Here is a quick look ahead at the event:

Background: The event was created 20 years ago and is still hosted by Foothill (Santa Ana, Calif.) High School. Excalibur is filled with fun bracket titles that stay in line with Camelot and the Knights of the Roundtable theme.

Defending Champ: San Clemente (Calif.) won the 2008 event and could be a factor again in 2009.

In The Rankings: Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) is the highest ranking FAB 50 team in the field at No. 8. Other FAB 50 teams at Excalibur are: No. 14 Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.), No. 20 Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), No. 23 El Toro (Lake Forest, Calif.), No. 25 Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.), No. 44 Los Alamitos (Calif.) and No. 45 Tesoro (Las Flores, Calif.).

Sleepers: Although Buena (Calif.) is not ranked, this one-time SoCal power seems to play its best at this event. While Buena might not have the horses to pull off a championship this year, don't be surprised if the team posts a strong showing.

Coming Out Party: Capistrano Valley opened the season with nine straight wins until getting cooled off by Santa Margarita last week. This week is a chance for Capo Valley to show if it can be a Southern Section contender in March. Excalibur offers a similar experience as the Southern California Division I playoffs  several matches against quality sides in a short number of days.

Welcome to Sunny California: Xavier College Prep (Phoenix) is the lone non-California team in the Excalibur Tournament. Xavier was a preseason Top 10 FAB 50 squad, but a couple of early losses knocked it from the FAB 50 rankings. A strong showing at Excalibur could cast Arizona soccer in a better light. Last year's Xavier squad went 3-1 at the event, losing only to San Clemente.

Best First-Round Matchup: Santa Margarita faces Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) in Monday's opening round. Unfortunately, one of these perennial section title challengers will be banished to the consolation bracket.

Sheldon Shealer covers youth soccer for ESPNRISE.com. He can be reached at Sheldon.Shealer@espn.com.