By Terry Duffy
One of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the northeastern U.S. will visit Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown on Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12.
The 31st annual Mass Mutual Niagara Pioneer soccer tournament will take over Fort Niagara's 20 soccer fields for two days of intense action. More than 2,800 participants are expected.
"In conjunction with Women's World Cup fever, the Niagara Pioneer Soccer League is getting ready to host the 31st annual MassMutual 2015 Niagara Pioneer Soccer League International Tournament on July 11 and 12 at Fort Niagara State Park," tournament director Jeff Gee said.
A classic travel team event, squads will be scheduled for at least three games of division play, with individual and team awards to be awarded for the first- and second-place finishers in each division.
"This year, we are hosting 160 teams with over 2,850 athletes from across New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ontario. Boys and girls from 9 to 19 years old will be competing in 260 games on the 20 fields we have at the fort," Gee said.
"On the local front, we have teams from Niagara Pioneer along with others from Lockport, Wilson, Grand Island, Tonawanda and North Tonawanda participating," he added.
Last year's tournament saw more than 10,000 attending and in excess of 600 hotel rooms booked in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region. Niagara Pioneer officials are expecting similar numbers for 2015.
"We estimate over 10,000 people will attend over the two days of competition," Gee said. "We are looking forward to another spectacular and successful event.
"Niagara County's largest and longest-running annual youth sporting event keeps on getting bigger and better!"
The event carries strong regional support, with tournament associate sponsors including A-1 Land Care Inc., ApartmentsNiagara.com, Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, R.E. Krug Corp., Freightboy, H.W. Bryk & Son, Niagara University and Northern Customs Services.
Gee pointed out the tourney serves as the Niagara Pioneer Soccer League's major fundraiser, with proceeds going to support its house and travel leagues that serve about 800 young athletes in the area.
For more information, including participating teams and the complete tournament schedule, visit www.niagarapioneer.demosphere.com/Tournament/index_E.html.