International Youth Soccer Coming to Tulsa
By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
International youth soccer will take center stage in Tulsa next June when up to 80 teams visit for an as yet to be named tournament.
Alex Alston, director of sales for the Tulsa Sports Commission, says plans are currently being finalized for the event which will feature 20 to 30 foreign teams in the field of boys and girls clubs aged 11 to 14. A site for the inaugural tournament in 2012 is also being sought, but the annual event will move to Mohawk Park when soccer fields are completed there in 2013.
“Ray Hoyt, executive director of the Tulsa Sports Commission, is working with Eddie Marles of AC Milan, the director of their youth program in South, Central and North America,’’ says Alston. “They had an interest in coming to Tulsa and giving their best teams some exposure. We have an interest in exposing our teams to a high quality of soccer.’’
Alston says that over 4,000 players, coaches and fans are expected to visit the city with a revenue impact in the seven figures. The Italian club AC Milan is known worldwide for its competitiveness on the international scene. The tournament will be modeled after a similar event in Cleveland called the Continental Cup which attracts 200 teams annually.
“This is a win-win situation,’’ says Whitney Miller, manager of development for the Tulsa Sports Commission. “It will have a great economic impact for Tulsa and will bring in elite international players for our local teams to play against. These are teams our kids haven’t played against in the past and it will increase their athletic ability.’’
Miller says the win-win attitude also benefits AC Milan, giving the club brand recognition in the United States and around the world. She said the Italians wanted to visit Tulsa because the city is recognized as having success in soccer. A youth camp and clinic conducted by the elite team coaches will be offered prior to and after the tournament.
Alston says the Tulsa tournament is expected to attract 150 teams in the future. He adds that a local marketing firm is working on the name and logo for the event, expected to be announced soon. Alston also notes that Marles will be to be in Tulsa to help finalize plans after returning from the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia.
“AC Milan is a huge draw and soccer people in Tulsa are blown away that they’re coming,’’ adds Miller. “We have to have high quality teams. We want to maintain this event for years to come. This a good fit. Everyone will go home talking about how great this experience was, especially the international teams.’’
Alston says four or five teams are expected to come from South America, a couple from Central America, a couple from Africa and potentially teams from Europe and Asia.
“I think we will have teams from all the continents,’’ Alston says. “We are trying to put together sponsorship to offset expenses. International sports companies are expected to participate and the more exposure for the companies, the more it will raise the level of our event.’’