Steamboat Springs The opening of the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament Friday allows the participating 12 local soccer teams a break from travel to compete at home.
But it doesn't mean they will take it easy.
The Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association has developed a reputation for its ability to create and mold talented individuals and teams in a smaller mountain town.
Friday, each Steamboat team has a chance to showcase its skill on its home fields in the opening of pool play in the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament.
With more than 150 teams from seven states scheduled to play this weekend, the Steamboat tournament is one of the largest -- and deepest -- in Colorado.
Bryan Bomberg's U-13 boys team spends the summer and fall competing statewide and this year has been no different.
Instead of tournaments, his team played in a Western Slope league this spring and plans to compete in a state league in the fall -- their eighth- grade year.
"For this size of town, we're very competitive in soccer," Bomberg said. "We have excellent children athletes and have built a program that supports them through funding from the tournament."
The Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament is the SSYSA's only fund-raiser. The SSYSA uses money raised from the tournament to help support the town's traveling teams, as well as improve field quality and coaching received by the 450-plus children involved in youth soccer in Steamboat.
Leon Rinck's two U-10 girls teams are the youngest Steamboat teams playing this weekend.
A format change implemented this year will allow the U-10 girls and boys to play four-on-four on a smaller field without goalies. All other divisions will play with the standard 11 players per team.
"It's real fast and a lot of goals are scored," Rinck said of the new format. "It's a great teaching tool for the kids. We do a lot of three-on-three or four-on-four with our kids in practice. It's good to teach them the shape and skills they need to learn soccer."
Rinck said he does emphasize having fun while learning at their young age.
But even Rinck's two U-10 teams, split from one into two because of the format change, have already played in two tournaments this season.
"We went to Denver," Rinck said. "The whole idea of going to a big city and playing in a tournament is a highlight for them. They enjoy the soccer as well, but they tend to forget about the games pretty quickly."
For many of the estimated 2,000 children playing this weekend, the experience of coming to a mountain town will be an excitement, as well.
The three-day tournament will occupy nearly all the Steamboat soccer fields from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Games will be played at Heritage Park, Whistler Park, Emerald Park, Steamboat Springs High School, Ski Town fields and the Maple fields near the high school.
Admission is free, and spectators are encouraged to come support the Steamboat teams.
Pool play is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, with the championship round scheduled for Sunday.