By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Rich Grubb enjoyed his trips to Oneonta, New York, to not only visit the National Soccer Hall of Fame, but to participate in soccer tournaments while he was there as well.
When the National Soccer Hall of Fame closed in 2010, the Over-50 soccer tournament Grubb and his Cranbury-based club team participated in ended, too.
But rather than be deterred, Grubb decided to bring the tournament to a new home.
“When the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta went out of business, the tournament ended as well,” said Grubb, a Cranbury resident. “We took the teams that went up there and said, "Why not come to Cranbury?" We set something up here with two township fields and one at the Cranbury School. We had 15 teams with teams from Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Our team is based out of central New Jersey. We have a two-day tournament, and it is fantastic.”
The 8th Annual Fame on Main Tournament was played last weekend, with a team from Radnor, Pennsylvania, emerging as the overall champion. Radnor won the tournament in dramatic fashion, topping Bucks United, also from Pennsylvania, on penalty kicks after the teams had played to a 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime.
The tournament got its name in honor of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, as well as the fact that it is played on Main Street in Cranbury.
“We had three groups of five teams in each group,” Grubb said. “Every team had four games and then we had a semifinal and a final. We give a trophy and t-shirts out to the winners and runner-up. The Marriott at Forrestal Village is our tournament hotel, and a lot of the our of area teams stay there.
“The team that wins most years is Radnor, which is from the Main Line in Philadelphia. They are one of the best Over-50 teams in the country. The teams that come are organized and well-prepared to play. We had a team of Chileans in from New York. They came for the first time this year.”
Grubb has enjoyed seeing the tournament continue and flourish since its move from Oneonta to Cranbury. There is a new National Soccer Hall of Fame currently being constructed in Frisco, Texas, at Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas, which is a member of Major League Soccer.
The new Hall of Fame timeline is looking at a completion date in late 2018. But even as a new Hall of Fame gets closer to opening, Grubb has no plans of seeing the tournament in Cranbury come to an end.
“It is pretty neat,” he said. “We get great cooperation from the township. I have some helpers. And because I am involved in the adult league, we can bring some referees in. Jim Turp, who is a part of the club, has been a big help. And it is great that we get help from the township and the Cranbury School.”
The Central Jersey Masters team, which has players from throughout Mercer and Middlesex counties on the roster, finished second in its group and just missed out on a spot in the tournament semifinals.
In addition to last weekend’s tournament, this year there will be an Over-60 tournament Aug. 26-27 in Cranbury. Grubb expects to have six teams participating in the event, which will be held on the two township fields.
“As the Baby Boomers get older, they want to keep playing,” Grubb said. “It is amazing. If you come and watch, it is very competitive soccer. The players enjoy it. I will do it until I can’t do it anymore.”
Grubb is 65 years old and doesn’t get on the field to play in the games as much as he once did. But he’s helped keep together the Over-40 and Over-50 teams that play in leagues in the central part of New Jersey.
The idea behind the club is to give soccer players an outlet to be able to continue to play, no matter their age. And Grubb will keep the tournaments going for the older players as long as there are teams that want to play.
“It is pretty rare to have a 15- or 16-team Over-50 tournament,” Grubb said. “This is not the hotbed of soccer, and we do get some good teams here. The teams in the tournament were from all over. We don’t have a website, so everything is word of mouth. If we promoted it, we might be able to double the number of teams. But we don’t have the fields for that many teams. We play 33 60-minute games in two days on three fields. It’s quite an effort, and it really is the best kept secret.”
Anyone who is interested in finding out more information or joining the Cranbury Soccer Association can contact Grubb at 609-915-8197 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor