HUNTINGTON — This week, the coronavirus sent a huge hit to the youth sports tourism industry in West Virginia when US Youth Soccer announced it was canceling its Presidents Cup and National Championship Series.
Barboursville and Shawnee were selected to co-host two of those tournaments — the 2020 Eastern Presidents Cup (June 19-23) and the 2020 Eastern Regional (June 26-July 2) — which would have brought an estimated $28 to $30 million to the state’s economy.
While that money cannot be recouped for the state, West Virginia Soccer Association president Len Rogers said he does not want to see the momentum and growth of youth soccer within the state to cancel out along with the tournaments.
“We’ve built this up over the last few years and we don’t want to lose what we’ve built,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that safety is and will always be the No. 1 importance to his organization, but should the coronavirus threat subside, he wants to be ready for play.
That’s why Rogers and the WVSA staff and board are researching options for the 2020 summer period that could get the youth of West Virginia back active if/when the COVID-19 threat is in the past.
Earlier this week, Rogers took part in a conference call with the WVSA Board of Directors and several club coaches about the prospects of moving forward with the organization’s top two tournaments — the Open Cup and State Cup — should the coronavirus pandemic subside.
Rogers said that call went well and everyone was receptive to the idea and plans are moving forward for those tournaments.
The Open Cup, which was scheduled for May 2-3, has now tentatively shifted to June 19-23. That weekend was the original dates for the US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup at Barboursville and Shawnee.
Rogers said that Barboursville would serve as the main site for the Open Cup, but Shawnee could also become a secondary site due to ongoing construction and upgrades at Barboursville, which were also halted by the coronavirus orders issued.
Rogers said he would monitor the situation over the next few weeks in hopes
“There are a lot of unknowns there still,” Rogers said. “Barboursville was supposed to have three turf fields installed this spring, but that’s on hold right now because the contractors aren’t allowed to work. They’ve got equipment on-site, but they haven’t been able to move any dirt yet.”
The WVSA State Cup is a bit more clear in its future, should soccer be able to resume.
The State Cup was originally scheduled for May 30-31 at Paul Cline Memorial Complex in Beckley, but has tentatively been pushed back to the time-frame previously occupied by the US Youth Soccer Eastern Regionals, which was June 26-July 2.
Like Rogers, everyone is eager to get back on the field and start training again, which led to the receptive nature of the conference call.
Earlier this week, Ashleigh Woods, the director of coaching for the Charleston Clash, spoke to HD Media’s Ryan Pritt about getting back on the field.
Woods is a former Marshall goalkeeper who has helped drive the success of youth soccer in the Mountain State with her coaching and training.
“I know a lot of the parents and the kids feel like I do, and that’s if there’s an opportunity to play once this is lifted, we’re going to be a lot more flexible than we have been in the past,” Woods said.
For Rogers, there is not only the aspect of wanting to continue momentum for youth soccer. It is also about maintaining the organization, which services kids of West Virginia and grows the sport.
Rogers, who again reiterated safety as the chief concern, was candid about the financial implications associated with the cancellations that have taken place.
Even if the season is abbreviated, getting back on the field is vital for the organization’s longevity, which helps maintain its ability to bid on the multi-million dollar tournaments for the state of West Virginia.
On the surface, one may think the organization’s finances hinge on those tournaments, but Rogers said that isn’t the case.
Rogers said it is the state’s youth leagues — not the major national tournaments — that are the life’s blood of the organization.
“Our registration fees are what move us along,” Rogers said. “Tournaments help, but it’s mostly registration fees. Where there’s no kids registering for spring because they aren’t playing, that’s half our income for a year or better. Our registration in the spring is crucial, and we are going to be hurting.”
Like so many others, Rogers is waiting to see how everything plays out with the coronavirus risk, but he’s optimistic and pleased to have a plan in place with the support of those in the West Virginia soccer community.
Rogers said the optimism and solidarity is not only big for potentially continuing progress on the field this summer, but also allowing the WVSA to stay steady in its quest to bid on national tournaments, which aids the state from a financial perspective in the long run.