Lafayette draws Presidents Cup soccer games next year

Hundreds of teens and their families from across the South will come to Lafayette in June 2015 for the Region III Presidents Cup, a competitive soccer tournament drawing the best players from 11 southern states.

Officials with the Lafayette Youth Soccer Association announced Tuesday that next year’s tournament will be held at Lafayette’s Moore Park on June 11-14 with the opening ceremony at the Cajundome Convention Center.

Tourism officials expect up to 7,000 visitors in Lafayette staying up to five days and five nights, providing an economic jolt of $2.5 million as the visitors spend money in restaurants and motels. Some of them will fly into Lafayette Regional Airport and rent cars, said Ben Berthelot, president and chief executive officer of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.

“Another huge positive is that the event will be in the summer …, which is typically a slower time for travel to our area,” Berthelot said. “Fall and spring are our busiest times.”

Officials worked for months to pull the tournament to Lafayette, and sent a bid to Presidents Cup officials about two months ago, Berthelot said.

To get the event, LYSA and the CVC worked with Lafayette Consolidated Government to upgrade two fields at Moore Park, off University Avenue north of Interstate 10.

Ritch said 120 teams — boys teams and girls teams — from Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Oklahoma will compete. Each team will compete in brackets depending on the age of its members. The winners advance to play for titles in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series.

“This will be the first Presidents Cup hosted in Louisiana,” said Michael Ritch, LYSA executive director. He said the teen and adult soccer scene in Acadiana is vibrant.

Of the thousands who play, a few hundred are good enough to join the Cajun Soccer Club. The players in the soccer club compete in regional and national tournaments.

“They compete all year to get to this point,” Ritch said.

Many of the teens who will compete next year in Lafayette have packed their gear, parents and siblings to travel to this year’s games in the Region III Presidents Cup in Decatur, Alabama. That tournament starts Thursday.

Ritch said Lafayette has some of the best young soccer players in Louisiana. He said 26 male and female members of the Cajun Soccer Club this year signed college scholarships for the 2014-15 school year. And they all competed in the Presidents Cup.