The Daily Courier
Spring dew clings to tangled branches below dusk-twilight in the greater Prescott area. In the distance, at the periphery of audible sensation, faint buzzing heralds a swarm of soccer players.
They’ll descend in a three-day flurry beginning today, some 4,000 people, including 132 youth teams from Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah.
They’ll storm 21 soccer fields, including municipal fields in Prescott Valley and Chino and the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University field, in Prescott.
But, unlike a locust plague, the 18th annual Yavapai Cup soccer tournament leaves a positive aftermath of skill-level matched games and local revenue.
That’s what Ed Andert saw as a coach during the cup’s nascent period.
“In the early 2000s, we were happy if we had enough teams to have every age group in the tournament,” said Andert, now a tournament director with Yavapai Soccer, a local sports nonprofit. “The tournament’s really grown since then.”
The tournament – the group’s only such yearly event – could net $2.5 million for local businesses this weekend, said Andert, using a Prescott Recreation Department formula.
The games are free for spectators and, multiple times during the Yavapai Cup, all 21 fields are simultaneously in use.
“When a bigger tournament is up here, it’s really nice for the local teams, too,” Andert said. “Everyone is matched up at level, so you end up with more satisfying, evenly matched brackets.”
The push from a 30- to 40-team tournament to a 100-and-something affair came in 2009, the year Andert joined Yavapai Soccer and the year Yavapai Soccer contracted a tournament organizer.
“One of the things I bring is a set of organizational skills and connections,” said Tom McConkey, the Yavapai Cup’s other tournament director and owner of AzSoccerEvents, which organizes similarly sized affairs around Phoenix.
Part of the event’s draw is its timing.
“It’s the last tournament of the year before state competition,” McConkey said. “For a team that’s not going to state, we say come out have fun, and it’ll be a vacation. For going to the state competition the following week, we market it as a great tune-up cup.”
It’s also a boon for local teams.
“When you’re in a smaller market, you have … (fewer) teams, and you tend to play the same teams again and again,” McConkey said. “We’ve probably got 20-25 teams coming from Tucson alone. It’s a great opportunity.”
Andert concurred, adding his experience as a parent of the three boys who got him involved in the soccer world in the first place.
“It’s fun to be a parent involved with kids in soccer (and) to have a tournament in the local area,” he said. “These days, it’s a lot bigger and a lot better.”