CHARLESTON — One of the worst-case scenarios for the travel sports industry became a reality late Tuesday.
United States Youth Soccer announced the decision to cancel its Presidents Cup, National Championships and all regional tournaments via notice to state association presidents, board members, committee/advisory chairs and its national staff.
The organization’s Eastern Presidents Cup was scheduled for June 19-23, and the Eastern Regional Tournament was scheduled for June 26 to July 2 at the Barboursville Soccer Complex and the Shawnee Sports Complex in Institute, West Virginia.
The two sites split the tournaments in 2019 as well.
With 15 organizations representing 13 states all descending on the area, the cancellations bring an overall economic loss of somewhere between $28 million and $30 million for the region, according to West Virginia Soccer Association President Len Rogers.
Barboursville had hosted USYS events prior to last year — the 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016 Eastern Regionals were held there — but the development of Shawnee and the partnership between the two sites helped maximize the experience for all involved.
“Shawnee made perfect sense logistically. We want everybody’s experience to be good,” Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said. “Getting them on board, we had hotels from Clendenin to Grayson, Kentucky, full. We had people in hotels staying as far as Chapmanville.”
Kanawha County Commissioner and gubernatorial hopeful Ben Salango was integral in getting the Shawnee Sports Complex built and in having a part in hosting USYS events. Salango said 41 hotels in the immediate area were filled for the Eastern Regional a year ago, and even though the financial impact will be felt, steps are already being taken to help minimize the losses.
The cancellations of qualifying tournaments in April and May were major contributing factors in the decision to cancel the Eastern Regional so early. But on the flip side, clubs across the country suddenly have a wide-open schedule in late June and early July and that provides an opportunity should the coronavirus pandemic be under control by then.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but we’re already looking at alternatives,” Salango said. “We’re working on scheduling tournaments in late June and July so local teams and teams all over the Eastern United States may be able to come and participate.
“It’s an opportunity — if it’s safe — to do something and have our own tournaments around that time frame. I don’t think, at least for now, that there should be any problems in July and we are praying it subsides by then. If that’s true, July is open and we will see what we can do to bring something here.”
Within the WVSA, adjustments have been made to the schedule. The Open Cup, scheduled for May 2-3, and the State Cup, slated for May 30-31, also will be rescheduled. Rogers said the dates now vacated by the canceled USYS events could be landing spots.
“We’re having a conference call (Wednesday) with our WVSA Board and clubs to talk about the possibility of playing our State Cup, which is in Beckley, and then doing the Open Cup back here in Barboursville,” Rogers said. “It would be in late June or early July — somewhere in that range. That’s only if it is safe and the virus is gone. That’s about the only hope we’ve got to keep things out there.”
For Tatum and the Barboursville camp, the cancellation brings with it a silver lining.
In February, the village of Barboursville announced a $1.8 million investment in the facility to bring synthetic turf, lighting upgrades and other improvements. But with the stay-at-home order issued for West Virginia and surrounding states, work on those improvements had come to a halt, leaving the anticipated completion by the start of the Eastern Regional in doubt.
“We had been fully anticipating being ready for June and July, but the stay-at-home orders being issued put a stop to the work that could be done because the construction companies were not working,” Tatum said. “It’s unfortunate for us, but at the same time, we were just going to get the synthetic fields done and not have some of the other things we’re doing finished. So, it gives us a chance to back up the date for completion and give ourselves time to get ready for when the tournaments do come back.”
And that will be soon.
The 2021 Eastern Presidents Cup is already slated to return to the two sites with play being held June 19-23 next summer. And while the Eastern Regional is already planned for Hammonton, New Jersey, Salango said efforts to secure the 2022 tournament have already begun.
“We’ve already reached out and asked them to bring those tournaments back to West Virginia, and I know they’re considering that,” Salango said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed, but we’re looking at all alternatives. Hopefully, the health pandemic plaguing our world will be over by June and we can try to do something if possible and create our own tournaments.”