Steamboat Springs Next weekend, Steamboat Springs will be transformed from Ski Town USA to Soccer Town USA.
With more than 150 youth soccer teams and more than 2,000 players coming to town, the ball of choice on most fields will be struck with a foot, not a bat.
The tournament is one of the biggest in Steamboat Springs all summer, pushing youth baseball to a back burner for at least one weekend.
The tournament isn't designed to bring visitors to Steamboat just to fill hotels, restaurants and stores. It does, but that wasn't why it was started.
The goal of the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament is to bring talented teams to the Western Slope to help area players grow in the sport of soccer.
Several years ago, organizers feared that Steamboat's programs lagged behind those on the Front Range. They felt the only way to improve was to invite those teams to the Western Slope for a weekend of top-notch soccer.
The tournament also raises a healthy chunk of cash, used to support many of the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association's competitive programs.
For the past 19 years, the tournament has reached all of its goals. And it's the only tournament of its kind in Steamboat.
Not surprisingly, as the tournament continues to thrive, Steamboat's soccer programs continue to improve.
It wasn't that long ago that Steamboat teams just hoped to be competitive in their age divisions. These days, our teams expect to win when they take the field, and several have taken titles recently.
The Steamboat team members have become representatives of what Western Slope Soccer has become -- at the Mountain Soccer Tournament, and in fall and summer leagues.
The program also has benefited the high school program. Soccer is now one of the strongest sports at the high school; the girls' and boys' teams seem to be in the running for a state title every year, despite the fact they often play teams from schools twice their size in the state playoffs.
Many of those players were first exposed to this level of soccer during the Mountain Soccer Tournament.
The amazing thing about this tournament is that it isn't run by a paid director, it doesn't pay a staff to make sure everything runs smoothly, and still, it is one of the largest in Colorado in the summer.
This tournament is run by a dedicated group of volunteers, parents and friends of the soccer association.
When Sunday's final championship game comes to a close, it will be parents, players and other volunteers who are responsible for the good will and money that the tournament generates.
In the end, that money will go back into the program to help improve the level of soccer here in Ski Town USA.