By Jon Woo

Since its inception in 2003, the PepsiCo Showdown has changed the landscape of high school soccer in Illinois and other states throughout the country.

From creating the first 32-school single-elimination regular-season tournament in the U.S. to leading the charge off the field with the scheduling overhaul in Illinois two years ago, the PepsiCo Showdown has been a proactive organization that has helped student athletes and schools from all areas and backgrounds.

As the PepsiCo Showdown becomes the “PepsiCo Showdown Series” beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, with the addition of the first high school football regular-season tournament in the U.S. and other sports showcases kicking off, the upcoming soccer event will once again provide student athletes and schools with something never seen before in high school sports.

Beginning this spring, PepsiCo Showdown schools will be playing for money.

Yes, money.

But how is that possible with amateur athletes?

Each PepsiCo Showdown school will represent a community organization making a difference in their local town. Through the power of sports, the goal is to engage and educate all student athletes, fans, media and schools about local charities, many of which need the exposure and volunteer support at times throughout the year.

Each of the high schools in the special-seeded four-team PODS will play for money, with the victor of each POD winning money for their local charity. Players will have a chance to win even more money based on goals for, goals against and shutouts. Each of the winning schools will then make the presentation to their charity as a team.

High school and college sites will host weekday doubleheaders throughout each PepsiCo Showdown, allowing for colleges to show off their campuses and also provide another opportunity for recruiters to see multiple schools at the same site in a 160-minute span during the week. The PepsiCo Showdown will take place each day throughout the week now vs. just two weekdays in the past, thus giving colleges the chance to host multiple schools and recruiters to be on the road to see even more student athletes during the popular event.

That exciting addition, along with the supersizing of the seeded Showcase Saturdays to make it possible for the more than 200 high schools from across Illinois and the bordering Midwest states to easily attend now, has college coaches from all levels raving about the enhanced format.

Jon Woo is a PepsiCo Showdown alum (2005-06) and played college soccer at Augustana College. He currently serves as secretary on the Buddy’s HELPERS board of directors.