By Travis LeFevre
It's time for soccer to kick back into high gear.
On July 7 and 8, Niagara Pioneer Soccer League will host the annual R.E. Krug 2018 Niagara Pioneer Soccer League International Tournament at Fort Niagara State Park.
This will be the 34th year for the tournament, which is Niagara County's longest-running annual youth sporting event. This year, the tournament will host 164 teams with more than 2,850 athletes showing up to play on the 20 fields in the park. Teams from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even across the northern border in Ontario will be involved. Locally, there will be teams representing Lockport, Wilson, Grand Island, Tonawanda, Kenmore, Buffalo, Hamburg and North Tonawanda in the tournament.
"We feel that this is a truly unique event that combines local tourism, youth athletics and American history like very few can," said Chris Woods, the Niagara Pioneer Soccer Tournament director.
The schedule can be found at http://niagarapioneer.demosphere.com
. It includes games for boys and girls categorized from U9 to U19. These young athletes will compete in 250 games on the 20 fields at the fort. It is estimated by the committee that more than 10,000 people will attend over the two days of competition.
"Seeing the park filled to capacity on Saturday afternoon is quite the sight to see," Woods said.
Between the games, there are picnic groves, pavilions, grills and plenty of space to engage in recreational activities. For those looking to get a meal or a snack, local restaurants will offer specials and welcome patrons.
The tournament is sponsored by R.E. Krug Corp. as well as Rainforest Café, Sheraton Hotel, ApartmentsNiagara.com, Niagara University, TAM Ceramics, H.W. Bryk & Sons, A-1 LandCare Inc., GHD Group, Northern Customs Services, the Town of Porter, KeyBank, Lewiston Family Dental, Managed Care Network Inc. and Modern Corporation.
The Niagara Pioneer Soccer League's mission is to foster the development of youth soccer in the Niagara Region of Western New York. The nonprofit league was established in 1972. This tournament is NPSL's major fundraiser and helps support leagues that serve about 800 young athletes from the region in both house and travel leagues.