By Terry Duffy
We all know the Niagara Region is well recognized for its youth soccer tournaments - the annual Niagara Pioneer Soccer Tournament presented by Mass Life each summer at Fort Niagara State Park being a case in point.
But how about a soccer tourney for adults? Well, a fun, competitive one is again coming this way.
The Gorges Classic Soccer Tournament, a men's open, with brackets for ages 30, 40 and over 50, is returning to the Niagara Falls area, Friday through Sunday, May 6-8, with games at Fort Niagara and at Lewiston-Porter High School in Youngstown.
Presented by Gorges Classic Soccer Tournaments (www.gorgesclassic.com) and Malite Ihunna Health, the Gorges Cup in Niagara Falls is described by organizers as "the best adult soccer tournament you'll ever participate in."
The Gorges Classic Soccer Tournament is an outdoor 11-on-11 soccer tournament offering fun and competition in five age brackets: men's open (18-plus), over 30, 40, 50 and co-ed. Entering its fourth year, the Gorges Classic has become the largest adult amateur soccer event on the East Coast, attracting teams from across New York state, the northeast and Canada.
The event was held last summer in Ithaca, and in 2014 in Niagara Falls - with games at Lew-Port and on the Niagara University campus.
Organizers envisioned the Gorges Classic following the closure of the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta in 2010. It was created as an event where adult amateur athletes could engage in healthy, fun competition for wellness, while also boosting the upstate economy through increased tourism.
And it returns this year to the Niagara Falls area, with competition at Fort Niagara and Lew-Port.
"We chose Niagara Falls because it is easily accessible and offers a wide range of attractions to complement fun soccer activities," tournament director Ibe Jonah said. "Our vision (is) to combine the passion of soccer and the wonder of Niagara Falls to continue to stage a fun tournament and make it the premier destination for amateur soccer players and fans from across these United States."
In addition to a $1,000 cash prize for division winners, the event includes plenty of entertainment to augment the soccer fun. How about beer tasting sponsored by Southern Tier Brewing Co. of Lakewood & Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, or wine tasting showcasing local and regional wines? The event will feature a welcome reception for all the players and their friends, beer and wine tasting from 10 craft breweries and wineries, a lamb roast and a concert featuring local bands, plus reggae legends The Meditations and Beres Hammond.
That's not all. This one will also offer boat rides on the Maid of the Mist plus a special Mother's Day program for participants and their families.
In its short tenure, this event has come to be quite popular. Organizers call the Gorges Classic arguably the most fun tournament in the U.S.
Consider this recent testimonial from an Ithaca player:
"I thought the whole experience was really fun, in large part because it was fun to be in Niagara Falls with friends and to check out all the neat spots, restaurants (The Silo) and beautiful parks. The tournament itself was really fun. I liked playing good teams from other parts of the state, though, too. It was great to mix it up, compared to our normal local league play (which is still lots of fun). I'd definitely do it again."
If you love playing soccer and having a great time, Gorges Classic is for you. You get to play skillful soccer against good teams, sample New York's finest craft beers and wines, hang out with your buddies, make new friends, and check out great local parks, organizers said.
All tournament proceeds benefit Malite Health, a nonprofit organization providing access to basic health care for underserved and impoverished communities in Africa and the Americas.
For more information on the Gorges Classic, or to register, visit www.gorgesclassic.com.