It might not be the World Cup, but Baton Rouge is catching soccer fever.
Starting next week, Louisiana’s capital will be flooded with more than 3,500 youth soccer players and their families for U.S. Youth Soccer Association’s Region III tournament hosted by the Baton Rouge Soccer Club and BREC.
“I think this puts Baton Rouge soccer on the map,” said BRSC interim Executive Director Bo Cassidy. “It’s a World Cup year, so tying that into it, too, creates a little excitement for the sport around the city. Ultimately, I think the goal is that people now become interested in soccer in the Baton Rouge community.”
Cassidy said BRSC has been working on this project for the past nine months, organizing its staff of nearly 1,100 volunteers who will help accommodate the 205 teams expected to compete at the Burbank Soccer Complex.
Thanks to BRSC’s $750,000 donation to BREC prior to receiving the tournament bid, the Burbank complex was able to make major improvements to the fields, BREC Communications Director Cheryl Michelet said.
Almost $12,000 went into field maintenance for the event, including the addition of 10 new fields. The Burbank complex holds 22 playable pitches — up from 12 before renovations — but Cassidy said three of those would be used for administrative purposes during the tournament.
Michelet said the fields have been shut down for the past eight weeks to prep them for the tournament and she believes they will be in top form come the first match.
“One of the things with hosting this tournament is you have to be able to show you have enough fields,” Cassidy said. “There’s not that many complexes in the country that have that kind of capacity. So we have that as an advantage.”
According to a study from the Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation, the tournament is expected to bring in upward of $20 million to the city between hotels, restaurants and various other costs. By comparison, a recent study released by LSU said the city of Baton Rouge makes about $47.7 million from fans living outside the metro area during the course of a seven-game LSU football season.
“I think the ultimate difference (between this and the average soccer tournament) is that this tournament is supposed to be a showcase (of all the high standards the region sets),” Cassidy said. “It’s supposed to be a first-class event. It’s supposed to be a celebration of these teams winning state.”