It may be the middle of June, but there is football in the air in Baton Rouge again.
Or, more accurately, fútbol.
Officially kicking off at 4 p.m. Thursday with an opening ceremony in the Baton Rouge River Center, the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III championships will take the city by storm over the next week.
Residents will likely see soccer players ranging from 12 to 19 years old in their team polo shirts touring both the downtown area and the LSU’s campus the day before competition begins at the BREC Burbank Soccer Complex. Regional games last from Friday through Thursday, June 26.
And the players will be plentiful.
More than 3,700 players, coaches and officials from 198 teams stemming from every corner of the southern U.S. have made Baton Rouge their temporary home for the duration of their time in the tournament, bringing an estimated economic impact of $18 million to the Baton Rouge area.
An estimated 12,000 spectators are expected to make their presences felt at the facility.
This won’t be the Burbank Soccer Complex’s first time dealing with such a sizable tournament.
It hosted the regional championships in 2010. It was an experience that Bo Cassidy, the Interim Executive Director of the BRSC, said went smoothly.
“I think for the most part, we did a really good job in 2010,” Cassidy said. “The feedback we got from the teams within the region was, for the most part, really positive. There were a couple of little tweaks, but overall, I think everyone thought 2010 was such a success, which is why we got it again in 2014.”
The Region III Championships will host a plethora of squads ranging from the under-13 through under-19 groups, both boys and girls teams. The teams will play in a round-robin format for the first three days of competition, followed by quarterfinal matches Monday and Tuesday. Semifinal matches will be held both Tuesday and Wednesday, with the finals taking place Wednesday, June 25, and Thursday, June 26.
Whichever team emerges victorious in each age group will advance to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series from July 21-27 in Germantown, Maryland.
Fifteen Louisiana-based teams have a spot in the regional championships, including three affiliated with the Baton Rouge Soccer Club.
For Brett Malone, the coach of BRSC 00 Black under-14 boys team in Baton Rouge, just having soccer garner attention makes the tournament worthwhile.
“This is probably the greatest thing in the world for us,” Malone said. “We love it, and it puts Baton Rouge soccer on the forefront. We love the idea that everyone is watching TV and seeing our commercials, and they want to play soccer. In general, it’s just a fantastic experience.”