HUNTINGTON – Barboursville and Dunbar, West Virginia, will partner next year as hosts for two major youth soccer tournaments that are expected to make a significant economic impact on both communities.
The 2019 US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships and the 2019 and 2020 US Youth Soccer Eastern Presidents Cup will feature games at Barboursville Park and Dunbar’s Shawnee Park.
“Obviously we love to welcome anyone from outside the area to the best little village in the state, and we think we’re a premier sports destination,” said Brandi Beasley, director of the Barboursville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Presidents Cup requires a host site to maintain a minimum of 18 fields. Beasley said Barboursville Park, which features 14 grass soccer fields, will serve as the primary venue. Shawnee Park has six turf fields and four grass fields. It will act as the secondary venue, replacing the Huntington YMCA Kennedy Center and Marshall University’s Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex, each of which has been home to games previously.
Beasley said this move likely will alleviate some visitors’ complaints about long daily travel times between the fields and hotels, which book up from Ashland to Charleston. Teams playing at Shawnee Park could book their hotels in Putnam/Kanahwa, and those playing in Barboursville could stay in the Huntington area, reducing travel time.
The two tournaments combined will include more than 3,000 players, accompanied by coaches, support staff, family and friends. The Eastern Regional Championships will have about 225 boys and girls teams, with a minimum of nine players per squad, in the 12-under through 19-under age groups. Regional winners in the 13-under to 19-under classifications will earn a berth in the US Youth Soccer National Championships. The Presidents Cup will have about 112 boys and girls teams in the 12-under through 18-under age groups competing for a regional title and a berth to the 2019 US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup July 10-14 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“The West Virginia Soccer Association is excited to once again host these prestigious US Youth Soccer regional events,” West Virginia Soccer Association president Len Rogers said. “We appreciate the repeated confidence that US Youth Soccer and the East Region have in our association to host a well-managed event of this size. We are very excited to showcase the new Shawnee Park Sports Complex and the many improvements to the Barboursville Soccer Complex to the thousands of players, coaches, referees and parents from the East Region that will attend.”
Barboursville Park is a familiar location for US Youth Soccer. The Eastern Regional Championships last came to Barboursville in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016, while the Eastern Presidents Cup took place in Barboursville in 2017 and will return June 16-18 this year.
“We are thrilled to be awarded these tournaments and look forward to the many players and families that will be visiting Barboursville,” Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said. “We love rolling out the red carpet for our visitors and look forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with US Youth Soccer and the West Virginia Soccer Association.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., estimated the economic impact of the tournaments at $32 million.
“Youth soccer is on the rise in West Virginia, with 18 travel soccer clubs and 37 recreational clubs,” Manchin said in a news release. “This growth is especially significant in Kanawha County, where the Shawnee Park Multi-Sport Complex is being developed into a truly premier sports destination. These two major tournaments will bring thousands of visitors to the Kanawha Valley, boosting our economy and giving us new opportunities to showcase West Virginia to visitors. Today’s announcement is another reason to be proud of our incredible young people, our forward-looking soccer community and our beautiful state.”
In a news release Friday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said the tournaments will expose thousands of young athletes and their families to the state.
“This is huge for our economy and a great opportunity for thousands of young people and their families to experience the many wonderful things West Virginia has to offer,” Justice said in the news release. “We want them to have a fantastic time while they are here and certainly hope they will return in the future to continue to explore ‘almost heaven.'”
Dr. Greg Smith, general manager of US Soccer’s East Region, said participants and spectators will be treated to high-level facilities during both events.
“The US Youth Soccer East Region family looks forward to working with the great people of West Virginia to provide the highest quality experience possible for the thousands of elite players who will earn the right to participate in these 2019 and 2020 US Youth Soccer events,” Smith said. “Every player, coach, family member and spectator in attendance will be exposed to high-level soccer on great fields and in a place of the country that makes you feel as if it is almost heaven.”
The Herald-Dispatch reporter Bishop Nash contributed to this report.