CUFA Tahoe soccer tournament kicks off
Thousands of people will be making their way up the hill for the 22nd annual Come up for Air soccer tournament this weekend. Now one of South Lake Tahoe’s premiere athletic events, the tournament will bring 177 teams to compete for the top spot in their respective divisions.
According to tournament co-director Mark Salmon, coordinators have really fine-tuned the logistics of preparing the area for such a large event, ensuring everything goes off without a hitch. “We’ve really streamlined the process,” said Salmon. “It’s gotten more and more efficient and we’re delivering a high-quality product.”
Since South Lake Tahoe doesn’t have a sports complex that would facilitate such an event, games are scattered throughout the South Shore and into Zephyr Cove.
According to Salmon, there will be an estimated 10,000 people that the tournament draws in total. “The teams come from as far south as the Los Angeles area,” said Salmon. “A lot of the teams come from around San Francisco and Sacramento. Typically, it’s teams from California and northern Nevada.”
The tournament features club soccer teams and will include ages between 8 and 19. Salmson said that the economic impact can potentially be in the millions. And it’s not just the region that will benefit economically, one of the main beneficiaries are the young athletes in the region. “We use those funds for anything from scholarships to new equipment,” he said. “We also build new programming for soccer.”
It isn’t always that easy to get accepted to the tournament either. Last year, Salmon said there were 100 teams that were turned away just due to the high volume of applicants. This year, 40 teams were unable to be accepted. “It’s in high demand,” said Salmon. “People want to come here for the cooler temperatures and they’d rather come here than somewhere like the Sacramento area. People are really looking for an excuse to get out here.”
Salmon said that he’s been with the tournament for seven years now and he’s seen the region really take off when it comes to the interest in soccer. “In our community, more kids play soccer than any other youth sport,” he said. “And it’s tournaments like this that brings out more kids that have interest in the game.”
Salmon said that one of the main benefits in putting these tournaments is making it economically feasible for the teams to come in. “Competitive, traveling sports will usually cost a lot of money to participate in,” he said. “[This tournament] makes it affordable so that any kid from most any economic-level in the community can have an opportunity to play at the highest level.”
Salmon said that one thing he’s observed from his seven years with the tournament, is how well it usually does.
“It started with about 30 teams and it’s grown to nearly 200 so it’s pretty impressive,” he said. “Because we have such demand, we’re looking at doing multiple tournaments or back-to-back weekends. You’re going to see this grow in the community.”