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Reprinted from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

It’s time for the Tri-State to roll out the hospitality carpet for youth soccer again — an increasingly common undertaking that pays dividends for the region.

The occasion this time is the 2018 U.S. Youth Soccer East Region President’s Cup tournament June 16-18 in Barboursville. More than 100 teams from 13 states are expected to show up for the event, which features two venues: the Barboursville Soccer Complex and the YMCA Kennedy Center on W.Va. 2.

Once again, the West Virginia Soccer Association is hosting the event, continuing a run of bringing big youth soccer tournaments to the area that began in 2009 and has been repeated intermittently since.

To help keep those tournaments coming back, folks in the Tri-State will need to make the thousands of visitors feel welcome, as well as pitch in to help the tournament go smoothly.

Officials estimate that the President’s Cup tournament this month will have an economic impact of $8 million on the region, similar to what happened last summer when the area hosted the same tournament.

Volunteers do not need any previous experience or soccer knowledge to be of help, he said. Those interested in volunteering for the 2018 President’s Cup can visit signupgenius.com/go/4090b4ba95-20171 or call 304-252-9872 for a list of open positions and locations.

The impact of tournaments such as the President’s Cup has generated tens of millions of dollars of economic activity in recent years, starting in 2009 when the area first hosted the US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships. That required a scramble to build more soccer fields in Barboursville and at the Kennedy Center, but commitment from the soccer association, Barboursville and the state enabled that to happen. The same tournament returned in 2010 and then again in 2015 and 2016.

The scheduling of the President’s Cup tournament both last year and this year was another signal that the region is building a reputation for hosting such big events. Further proof came in April, when it was announced that the 2019 US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships and the 2019 and 2020 US Youth Soccer Eastern President’s Cup will be held at Barboursville Park and Dunbar’s Shawnee Park.

Those two tournaments combined will include more than 3,000 players, accompanied by coaches, support staff, family and friends — all spending money on lodging, food and perhaps other recreational activity in the region. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin estimated the economic impact of those tournaments at $32 million.

Those who come to the region for the tournaments also will be exposed to the features of the Mountain State, and could return as tourists.

So let’s prepare to warmly welcome a new group of soccer enthusiasts and their families and fans to the region in the hopes they will keep coming back.