Tournament is last hurrah before ski season |

Tournament is last hurrah before ski season

Members of the Vail Crush U11 soccer team practice at Donovan Park on Friday. The Crush will be participating in the 17th annual Cindy Eskwith Vail Cup soccer tournament this weekend. The tournament is the last big event of the summer/fall season.
Townsend Bessent | |

By the numbers

5,000: Approximate number of players, coaches, officials, family members and others coming for the annual Cindy Eskwith Vail Cup soccer tournament.

200: Volunteers

132: Participating teams.

$40,000: Approximate amount of scholarship money for the Vail Valley Soccer Club raised by the tournament.

EAGLE COUNTY — This weekend’s Cindy Eskwith Vail Cup soccer tournament is about competition, but it’s also about community.

This is the 17th annual fall tournament hosted by the Vail Valley Soccer Club, and the event is bigger than ever this year. After limiting teams in 2014 because of construction at Ford Park in Vail, this year’s tournament will host 132 teams from around Colorado and Utah. Those teams have players ranging in age from grade-school to high school players.

“We have at least 30 more teams this year than last,” Vail Valley Soccer Club Executive Director Kari Thelan said, adding that average registration for the years before 2014 averaged around 110 teams.

The growth of the tournament reflects the growth of the local club. Thelan, who has spent several years as a club mom and board member, said it wasn’t that long ago that the club had 13 teams up and down the valley. There are 30 teams today, from youngsters to premier teams of older, more accomplished players. In fact, there are four local teams competing at the premier level this year.

“We’re doing more than soccer. We’re keeping (kids) healthy, guiding them toward healthy choices and we have premier-level athletes (as mentors).”Kari ThelanExecutive director, Vail Valley Soccer Club

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Boon for Business

The tournament’s popularity is a boon for local businesses at this time of year.

“I really think it extends our (tourist) season by a week,” club mom Jenn Bruno said. Bruno, who’s also a Vail business owner and Vail Town Council member, said the economic impact of around 5,000 guests in the valley for a weekend is welcome, of course.

That economic impact is why the tournament receives funding from the Vail Commission on Special Events, which provides financial support for various events throughout the year.

Commission member Barry Davis said helping fund the tournament is a “win-win for everybody — it’s a great way to bring a bunch of people to Vail at a great time of year.”

Bruno said while the tournament is a staple of the fall schedule for some families, the weekend events also bring families who might not otherwise have come to the valley for a weekend. She recalled the first tournament she went to with her oldest son, in Grand Junction, as the time she realized the impact those events can have.

“I realized then what a great economic impact I could be to Grand Junction,” Bruno said. “It’s just great for the valley to host events like this.”

While the tournament is great for business, it’s better for the Vail Soccer Club and what it helps create in the valley.

The tournament is the local club’s primary fundraiser, and much of that money goes toward scholarships. Thelan said that between 25 and 35 percent of the club’s athletes — about 450 kids — receive some kind of scholarship assistance.

“(The tournament) helps us keep fees down, and the entire community benefits,” Thelan said.

Friends throughout valley

The teams are set up so kids from across the valley have a chance to get to know each other.

Bruno has two sons, and said both play on teams that have players from “five or six” other local elementary schools.

“I love that,” she said. “It really connects families and kids from all over the valley — it creates friendships.”

Bruno said the club has done a “great job” of making club soccer accessible to as many kids as possible.

Thelan’s professional background is in nonprofit and youth advocacy groups. She said the club’s reach into so many valley homes is good for the whole valley.

“We’re doing more than soccer,” Thelan said. “We’re keeping (kids) healthy, guiding them toward healthy choices and we have premier-level athletes (as mentors).”

That, Bruno said, may be the club’s biggest effect on the valley.

“This club hits everyone,” she said. “No one who wants (to play) doesn’t have the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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