October 25, 2013 11:20:36 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Let the games begin.
Action will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Mississippi Soccer Association's Coaches Cup at the Columbus Soccer Complex on 7th Avenue and 3rd Street North. The recreational tournament will feature 33 teams from across the state in a two-day event that will crown champions in seven age groups for boys and girls.
"I think it is going to be pretty good because it is going to be a manageable number of teams," Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Director of Programs Greg Lewis said. "With the help of the Columbus Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, it is going to be a first-class tournament."
This is the city of Columbus' first chance to showcase its new soccer complex to a broader audience. The tournament will feature three age divisions for girls (Under-8, U-10, and U-12) and four for boys (U-8 through U-14). Lewis said CLRA and the city of Columbus have been preparing for the tournament since the summer when it earned the right to play host to the event.
Lewis said the Coaches Cup will give CLRA and the city of Columbus a chance to do a test run for a statewide tournament to help it prepare for the Presidents Cup, which will be in May 2014. That tournament is expected to be significantly bigger than the Coaches Cup because it gives teams from all over Mississippi a chance to compete for a state title.
Regardless of the size of the event, Lewis said the goal will be to present a first-class tournament that takes care of all of the needs of the players, parents, family members, administrators, friends, and referees.
"We want to find out what we need to do differently for the Presidents Cup," Lewis said. "Mississippi Soccer Association is going to be very pleased when they leave."
Lewis said CLRA paid for the entry fees of approximately 10 of the teams from Columbus that are entered in the tournament. He said the goal is to provide a tournament experience for as many homegrown players as possible so they know what to expect as they move up the ladder of recreational and competitive soccer.
Lewis hopes the city of Columbus will get that chance, too, which is why playing host to events like the Coaches Cup and the Presidents Cup are so important.
"I think people who come to the Coaches Cup will see a wonderful facility and like the way it looks with the lighting," Lewis said. "I think we have a first-class facility and that people are going to enjoy their experience and want to come back."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.