BARBOURSVILLE — Thousands of young soccer players, their coaches and their families from 13 states are descending on the region this week, as the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup begins today at locations in Barboursville and Dunbar.
It is the first of four major regional youth soccer tournaments being held in West Virginia this summer and next, with an estimated economic impact of $56 million overall.
Chris Tatum, mayor of Barboursville, said he is excited for the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup, which begins Friday at the Barboursville Soccer Complex as well as the Shawnee Sports Complex near Dunbar.
“We have rolled out the red carpet to U.S. Youth Soccer, the kids playing and their families,” Tatum said, referencing how the region has hosted several big youth soccer tournaments in previous years. “I think that’s a big reason for them wanting to return.”
On Thursday, Barboursville Parks and Public Works employees were at the Barboursville Soccer Complex working on roads and parking around the soccer fields.
“When these families come to town, our fields and facilities are always in great shape, and I think it speaks volumes as to why they wanted to come back,” Tatum said. “They are coming here and spending a lot of their hard-earned money, so we want them to have a great experience. We want them to know we are glad they are here and we appreciate them being here.”
The Presidents Cup is the first of four large youth soccer tournaments at the Barboursville Soccer Complex and the Shawnee Sports Complex in Dunbar, West Virginia, for 2019 and 2020.
A partnership between the two sports complexes was instrumental in landing the events, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango said.
“Because of the size of these youth tournaments, the Barboursville Soccer Complex or Shawnee Sports Complex are not big enough to host these tournaments alone,” he said. “Cities and facilities all over the East Coast wanted these youth soccer tournaments, and because of the quality in the past at the Barboursville Soccer Complex and all the amenities of the Shawnee Sports Complex, we were able to team up and land these large tournaments.”
The Shawnee Sports Complex opened in July 2018 and includes collegiate-sized fields for soccer, football and lacrosse, as well as baseball-softball fields.
The Presidents Cup tournament alone is expected to bring in 112 teams from states all over the East Coast and thousands of players and their families to the region.
“We expect to see hotels from all over the Tri-State and Kanawha Valley regions at capacity while teams compete in the tournaments, which are each five days long,” Salango said.
Pool play matches will be held at both Barboursville and Shawnee complexes through Sunday, while semifinal and championship matches will be on Monday and Tuesday at Shawnee.
Salango said with five-day tournaments, there is much more downtime for players and their families to explore what the region has to offer.
“This also benefits local restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and others when thousands of out-of-state folks explore the region looking for things to do when they are not playing,” he said.
Tyson Compton, president of the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the Presidents Cup tournament brings an economic impact of over $14 million to the region and a good portion of that is being spent in Cabell County.
“Tournaments such as this are great for our area,” he said. “They bring in literally thousands of people, many of whom have never been to our region. And it’s a great way to showcase our area.”
Compton said many soccer families who have been here before have returned to vacation in the area.
“I recently talked with a family in our visitors center who said their child was attending Marshall University this fall because they had participated in the tournament a few years ago and were very impressed with Marshall,” he said. “They are spending money in our hotels, restaurants, shops and visiting our attractions.”
The Presidents Cup takes place June 14-18 at both sports complexes and will feature boys and girls teams in the 12U through 18U age groups who will compete for a regional championship and a spot at the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup July 10-14 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Preliminary play will start Friday morning with age groups 12U through 15U playing at the Barboursville complex, while age groups 16U through 18U will play at the Shawnee complex.
Starting later this month, Barboursville and Shawnee will host the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships, which will run from June 28 to July 4. That tournament will bring 225 state champion teams from 13 states to compete for a chance to participate in the national tournament.
“Youth sports tourism is an estimated $13 to $15 billion industry,” Salango said. “It’s growing, and now is the time for West Virginia to take full advantage of it.”