Having a Ball 

U.S. Youth Soccer 2011 Far West Regionals show off new talent

Thousands of young athletes hope to kick their way to the national level.

Brady Moore

Thousands of young athletes hope to kick their way to the national level.

In the parking lot at the Simplot Sports complex in East Boise, there is usually a mix of 1A and 2C "Famous Potato" license plates. But if you had stopped by the park last week, you would have noticed a number of out-of-state plates.

On June 22-26, at least 5,000 athletes on 232 teams from 14 states took to the fields to compete for a chance to play at the national level during the U.S. Youth Soccer 2011 Far West Regionals.

Erik Ocampo, coach of the San Diego Surf, a team of mostly 11-year-olds, said he was looking forward to playing more matches and building on what his team had learned at home. Nearby, a group of girls in team uniforms juggled soccer balls and practiced catching goals at the same time a match was taking place a few feet away.

With 20 fields for the matches, and all of them full, there was activity everywhere. Grass-stained sixth-graders played on a field next to sweaty college-bound high-schoolers--securing a spot on a college team is a major draw for the teens. Coaches from dozens of colleges and universities attended the tourney, hoping to spot their next star player.

Laurie McConnell of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau said the event, which Boise has hosted three times--in the mid-80s, in 1996 and in 2006--brings approximately $10 million to the valley thanks to the players, coaches and parents who visit. And they all seem to enjoy coming here.

"We continue to hear from participants that they love coming to Boise. They love the quality and proximity of the fields, the weather, the location, the amenities Boise has to offer--they love it all," said McConnell.

The national finals will be held in Phoenix later this summer. McConnell said the Idaho Youth Soccer Association would like to bring the tournament back to Boise every three or four years and that the BCVB will work to make that a reality.

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