Steamboat Springs With more than 150 teams, 250 volunteers and 2,000 players involved, it's no wonder that the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament is one of the biggest in the state.
But size isn't the only reason this tournament is important.
"This is the only fund-raiser we do all season for the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association," director Elmer Balvanz said. "It's not the only mountain tournament in Colorado, but we think it's the best."
So do many of the teams that will be here July 18-20 for the 19th annual Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament. A couple of format changes helped fill the brackets more than six weeks ago, which is early for this event, Balvanz said.
One of those changes will allow premier players to compete for the first time and the other will shift the 10-and-under division to four-on-four sides. Both changes helped increase registration this season.
Teams will come from South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado to play in the event.
The teams will use 13 area soccer fields, including four fields at Emerald Park, two at Whistler, two at Ski Town, three at the high school and two at Christian Heritage School.
Balvanz said the field at Colorado Mountain College would be available in case of rain or some other unforeseen event.
Play will begin at 8 a.m. Friday morning and continue through Sunday afternoon. Belvanz said games were scheduled from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Teams will play three pool-play games during the first two days of the tournament. They will earn points for wins and ties, and the teams with the most points will advance to Sunday's championship round.
Assistant director Doug Labor said the success of the tournament is dependent on the 250 volunteers who come out with smiles on their faces every year. Over the past 19 years, the tournament has built a reputation for being one of the friendliest in the country, he said. It's something the organizers take pride in.
The event isn't just about playing soccer, however. Organizers have scheduled a dance on Friday night and a special four-game coaches tournament under the lights at the high school Saturday.
"We want to make sure that everybody has a good time," Labor said. "That's what makes this tournament unique."
The money raised from the three-day event is used to support Steamboat's many competitive and traveling teams. The money raised helps to defray the cost of participating in tournaments and league play.
Belvanz said there are between 450 and 500 children playing in the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association. In the past, money has been used to send teams to tournaments across the country, hire new coaches and improve area soccer fields.
The organizers said the tournament brings high-level teams to Steamboat to compete.
"Most of the year, our players have to travel to compete," Labor said. "This tournament is nice because our players get to sleep in their own bed.'
This year, 12 local teams will compete in the tournament. Steamboat will have teams in the 10-, 11, 12, 13-, 14-, 18- year-old divisions at the tournament.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209
or e-mail email@example.com