Sixty-nine teams coming up for air |

Sixty-nine teams coming up for air

Steve Yingling

Soccer has never been healthier on the South Shore and following the United States’ incredible World Cup title earlier this month, the timing is almost perfect for a local youth tournament.

Enthusiasm is bubbling as sixty-nine teams from all over California will invade South Lake Tahoe this weekend for the 10th annual American Youth Soccer Organization Come Up for Air Tournament.

“My girls were inspired by the fact that until recently they were always watching men play. They were seated in an area with 73,000 people watching a women’s sporting event,” said Les Shaw, who took some of his TNT U-14 girls to watch a game at Stanford earlier in the tournament. “And then with 91,000 more people watching the final in Pasadena, it was a validation of what they were doing.

“Since the World Cup there has been an attitude in practice of showing more focus and determination.”

Of course, there are 20 other girls and 49 boys teams in the tournament who probably are just as inspired by what Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm accomplished.

“I think the final game in Pasadena was an identifiable turning point for women’s sports in our society. I had seven girls watching the final game with me and they were just as excited watching it on TV as the people were in Pasadena. It’s been profound. I’m sure that’s the case with soccer girls everywhere,” Shaw said.

The three-day tournament, which begins Friday morning at 8 and ends with championship games at five venues at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

“We need more fields as always. We could probably double the size of this tournament if we had the fields. There’s always a big waiting list,” said second-year tournament director Jody Boles. “I mailed out over 100 applications to teams in late February and one of the divisions was filled by the first week in March. People faxed and FedXed just to get into this tournament.”

Division age groups range from U-10 to U-14 and will bring together club, select and AYSO teams for one of the few times during the tournament season.

“One of the highlights of an AYSO tournament up here is that it allows kids to compete against different players and oftentimes kids who participate in a highly competitive urban system,” Shaw said. “We’re very excited to play in front of family and friends because we usually play all of our club games in Gardnerville or Reno.”

Spectating is free and concession stands will be set up at the various sites.

“It’s a fun tournament, and we get some pretty good teams coming through. But more than anything, it gives the community a shot in the arm. It’s a great way to see Tahoe,” said South Tahoe High boys soccer coach Joe Winters, who has been an avid supporter and coach in youth soccer for years.

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