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Youth soccer tourney might give kick to local economy

Posted June 19, 2008

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— A gathering of soccer teams, moms and dads could pump millions into the local economy over the next week.

More than 5,000 youth players on 184 teams from 11 states will compete in the Southern Regional Soccer Championship at stadiums in Raleigh and Wilson June 19-25. The Capital Area Soccer League is hosting the tournament.

"(The championship) promises to be a landmark event on the area sports calendar," Scott Dupree, director of sports marketing for the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. "In terms of size and scope and prestige, this event is dfficult to beat."

Event organizers estimated that the players, coaches and their families will spend $4.2 million at restaurants, hotels, stores and other local venues. The visitors have booked an estimated 20,000 nights at Raleigh and Wilson hotels.

The tournament kicked off with opening-day ceremonies at the RBC Center in Raleigh on Thursday. License plates from as far away as Arkansas were in the parking lot.

Team representatives carried the flags of each participating state, prompting cheers from their respective delegations, which were seated by state. The enthusiastic youth players did the wave across the lower level of the RBC Center.

"We are exicted that the ... championship will once again be played in North Carolina, with Greensboro last hosting in 2003," Bob Singer, president of the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association, said. "Our regional championships are part of the most successful programs for the highest level of youth soccer play in the United States."

The U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series is a grassroots effort, involving boys and girls from 13 to 18 years old. Champions and select runners-up from 12 state associations have come to compete in North Carolina.

The winners of each age group will earn a berth in the national championships, to be played July 22-27 in North Little Rock, Ark.

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