Soccer remains one of the most popular team sports in the country, and in fact, throughout the COVID era, participation for outdoor soccer continued to increase, with more than 12.5 million total participants ages 6 and up at year-end 2021, which was up nearly 1 percent from the year before, according to the 2022 Topline Participation Report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Opportunities for play, for participants of all ages, are numerous. If you’re looking for the perfect venue for your soccer event, here are some top locations to consider.
Soccer is big business in Arlington, and the city has the venues to prove it. The 135-acre Harold Patterson Sports Center, dedicated in 1990, offers configurations for 11 large soccer fields and 12 small-sided fields. Lights keep play going into the night, and the facility offers concessions, a picnic area, restroom buildings, a pavilion and several parking lots to put fans close to the action.
In addition, the Arlington ISD has access to 23 large soccer fields and more than 28 smaller fields, while Arlington Parks & Recreation offers 17 large fields and more than 28 smaller fields.
The Arlington Sports Commission offers help all along the way, from initial site tours to transportation coordination, custom event entertainment, helping to arrange for event volunteers, providing coupons and event promotions with local restaurants and attractions, assisting with marketing and public relations and more.
“We’re close to the airport, in the middle of the country and have great sports facilities,” says Matt Wilson, Executive Director of the Arlington Sports Commission. “And our staff understands what it means to coordinate all the logistics for a superior event.”
“Soccer is part of our culture here in Bakersfield,” says Matt Billingsley of Visit Bakersfield. “Having top-notch facilities, and being in central California and located within a four-hour drive of 90 percent of the state’s population, Bakersfield is a perfect location to host state and regional tournaments.”
Among those top facilities are two 24-field complexes. The Kern County Soccer Park, (currently with four lighted fields) includes a tournament headquarters, air-conditioned referee facility, four concessions stands and plenty of parking. The Kaiser Permanente Sports Village is fully lighted and offers concessions and a referee facility.
Bakersfield has hosted several large events in recent years, including Soccer de Mayo, which brought in 165 teams, the Cal South State Cup, with 150 teams, and the Garces Memorial Regional Championships, with 115 teams. “We’re working on bringing several soccer tournaments that would attract 200 or more teams,” adds Billingsley.
Visit Bakersfield often assists with marketing events, helping to coordinate volunteers, and facilitating partnerships between rights holders and local vendors. Visit Bakersfield also has a grant program to help offset rental costs. “As California’s ninth largest city, Bakersfield boasts all the big-city amenities while still keeping that small-town hospitality, and at a fraction of the cost,” Billingsley says.
The Skagit River Park Sports Complex is one of the largest natural grass field complexes in Washington State, offering 80 acres of picturesque multi-use fields that can be configured for up to 30 soccer fields. The Sports Complex includes a concessions building with covered shelter, picnic tables, restroom facilities, lighted parking and a children’s playground.
“We host the Firecracker Tournament and Rush Cup each summer, both large soccer events that typically draw 10,000 to 15,000 spectators each,” says Kati Klerekoper, Recreation Specialist for Burlington Parks and Recreation. “We work with organizers such as NW United FC and Washington Rush to hold these tournaments.” This year the Firecracker invitational is scheduled for June 23-25 and the Rush Cup is slated for August 4-6.
While Burlington is not a large city, it has abundant lodging options both in and around the area, and many are within a five-minute drive of the Skagit River Park Sports Complex. Local businesses, stores and the many excellent restaurants in the area get geared up for events in town and for welcoming visitors. Off the field, tourists can explore the North Cascades National Park to the east, or Whidbey Island/Fidalgo Island and Puget Sound to the west, both a short drive down Highway 20. There’s also plenty of hiking, biking and camping opportunities.
Butler County, Ohio
“Southwest Ohio continues to witness a massive surge of interest in soccer, from our grassroots participants all the way up to the MLS,” says Matt Prewitt, sales manager for sports and events. “Travel Butler County is extremely proud of the strong resume of elite soccer tournaments hosted in our area with organizations such as Ohio Soccer Association, Kings Hammer Soccer Club and US Youth Soccer.”
Among the top venues is the Voice of America Athletic Complex, located in West Chester, with 25 multi-purpose fields, including two lighted synthetic turf fields. Close to hotels, restaurants, shopping and entertainment, VOA operates under a partnership with UC Health and West Chester Hospital and features a state-of-the-art fieldhouse that includes a trainer’s room and trainers (provided during events), concession stand, restrooms and an elevated press box with a 360-degree view of all the action, ideal for enhanced viewing and scouting.
Among the larger soccer events recently, the three-day King’s Hammer Men’s Blue Chip Showcase brought in 390 teams, more than 5,800 players and over 8,000 spectators last April. In June 2021, the US Youth Soccer Midwest President’s Cup had 168 teams, 2,500-plus participants and over 5,000 spectators for the five-day event, which will again be played at VOA this June. Off the field, visitors can enjoy the many area attractions and experiences.
“Travel Butler County provides event owners with the highest level of service throughout every part of the planning and operational process,” says Prewitt. “We leverage local partnerships with area hotels and attractions. Providing area discounts, utilizing a network of media outlets and creating a sense of welcome with unique signage are just a few of the ways TBC can assist.”
The Elgin area has both indoor and outdoor facilities that can host soccer tournaments for players of any age. Dawson Field at Judson University is a newly renovated outdoor turf field that hosts collegiate soccer matches and is now available for other groups to rent. Lifezone 360 is an indoor sports complex with two full-size turf soccer fields available year-round.
The area’s largest facility is the 191-acre Elgin Sports Complex, with 10 natural grass fields, four with lights. The sports complex also features a playground, nature trails, a hard-surface asphalt path, restrooms, shelter/gazebo and more. Annually, the Elgin Sports Complex hosts soccer tournaments with 150 teams or more participating.
“Soccer is the most popular sport in the Elgin area, since we can host such large tournaments,” says Ryan Cortez, director of sales and marketing for the Elgin Area CVB. The CVB can offer assistance in recruiting volunteers, marketing, hotel accommodations, creating welcome bags and serving as the liaison between the event owner and facility management. When not on the soccer pitch, players and visitors can explore the award-winning Fox River Bike Trail, escape rooms, axe throwing, indoor trampoline parks, America Ninja Warrior-themed obstacle course, golf, a casino, the many excellent restaurants and other attractions.
Placer Valley, California
There are more than 30 competitive fields in the Placer Valley area suitable for soccer tournaments and events. Among the most commonly used for tournament play is Maidu Regional Park in Roseville, which offers five lighted Bermudagrass fields. Foskett Regional Park in Lincoln has four lighted natural turf fields. Both Maidu and Foskett parks have permanent restrooms, playgrounds and free parking.
“Also nearby is the Cherry Island Soccer Complex, which adds an extra 10 full-size fields to our inventory,” says Donna Dotti, director of sales at Placer Valley Tourism. “Although this complex is located in Sacramento County, teams prefer to stay in Placer Valley for its overall desirability, hotel and dining options, amenities and proximity.” Cherry Island has two covered picnic areas, concessions building with restrooms and plenty of parking.
The Placer United Girls Cup soccer tournament, which averages about 150 teams each year in the U11-U19 age groups, takes place in October, with divisions for all levels of play. “This is the largest event offered in the fall in Northern California, boasting numerous State Cup Champions and attracting the best teams from across California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska,” says Dotti.
For event owners, Placer Valley Tourism helps find competitive hotel rates, building event-specific web pages (which include participating hotels and click-through booking links), financial grants and incentives to assist with significant tourism-generating events, as well as media relations and publicity assistance.
“Soccer has been an integral part of the Placer Valley footprint for years,” Dotti notes. “From rec leagues to elite competitions, we’re proud to be home to hundreds of soccer matches each season. And we’re especially excited for the City of Roseville’s approval to construct a state-of-the-art 10 field complex, slated to open in 2025!”
“Plano is a hot spot for youth soccer, as we have the ability to host all ages and levels of play throughout the year,” says Alysha Carse, the sports sales manager for Visit Plano. “As youth soccer’s popularity continues to grow, Plano is proud to be home to a superb local league, as well as national scouting events, giving both the community and traveling teams the opportunity to enjoy everything Plano has to offer.”
Among those things to enjoy are two top soccer venues. Carpenter Park has 11 lighted full-size soccer fields, four synthetic turf fields and two smaller fields, along with covered spectator seating and permanent restrooms. Russell Creek Park offers 20 full-size fields (10 lighted), and two new synthetic full-size turf fields. All fields have shaded bleachers and there are shaded tables next to concessions, along with over 1,600 parking spaces.
Texas does things in a big way, and among the larger events held in Plano is the Plano Youth Soccer Association Labor Day Classic, bringing more than 500 teams and over 50,000 players and spectators. The North Texas Soccer Tournament of Champions attracts up to 270 teams and 35,000 players and spectators.
Spanning more than 300 acres, Kino Sports Complex’s natural grass facility is the largest venue of its kind in the Southwestern U.S. Since opening in 2013, the Kino North Complex, which is primarily a soccer venue, has been used for professional soccer during the Major League Soccer preseason and hosts year-round amateur and youth play.
In all, the North Complex has eight lighted soccer fields (two of them regulation-size), parking for hundreds of vehicles, a fully equipped clubhouse, an indoor event center and family-friendly park, various covered ramadas; children’s playground, basketball court and an indoor event center. The North Stadium has seats for 2,300 and the Grandstand Field has 1,000 seats.
The Kino South Complex expansion added 167 acres to the facility’s footprint. Kino is a prime destination for regional and national tournaments and events, where players and fans at the 12 natural grass fields are treated to panoramic views of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The South Complex includes free paved parking for nearly 800 vehicles and is just minutes from the airport, downtown Tucson, restaurants and hotels.
Also available is Naranja Park, with eight fields, a playground area, shade ramadas, picnic areas, hiking trails, birding trail and more.
The annual Fort Lowell Shootout youth tourney brings 375 teams to Tucson in February, and the FC Tucson Strikers Cup youth event brings 200-plus teams each September. Significant events include the NJCAA DII Men’s & Women’s Soccer Championships in November and the MLS & USL Spring Training and Desert Showcase in February.
“We can help event owners by providing sponsorship funds to help offset facility rental costs, hotel RFP assistance, arrange for local news coverage and assist, when possible, with local sponsors,” says Nick Pazzi with Visit Tucson Sports. SDM