If you see a lot of visitors in the High Country this weekend, one of the reasons is the Appalachian Classic youth soccer tournament. On August 28 & 29, people in the North Carolina High Country will get a taste of “the beautiful game’s” popularity as 45 boys and girls teams ranging in ages from U11 to U18 will make their way to the annual soccer tournament Appalachian Classic, hosted by Boone-based High Country Soccer Association (HCSA). HCSA’s annual spring tournament, the King of the Mountain, hosts approximately 90 teams.
The Appalachian Classic, which began in 2015, will be spread across fields at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex (TMSC; home of HCSA, Watauga County’s Parks and Recreation, and Appalachian State Men’s and Women’s Soccer), Brookshire Park, and Watauga High School. In addition to the HCSA staff, it takes about 50 volunteers to run the Appalachian Classic Soccer Tournament. Participating teams will be from 4 different states.
“The Appalachian Classic is a great way for soccer clubs and teams to start their fall season,” says Rick Suyao, Executive Director of High Country Soccer Association. “There is great competition against teams you normally don’t play against during the regular league season. In August, the weather is usually more comfortable and cooler than off the mountain and in addition to soccer, visitors can see and do all the neat things our area offers as a tourist destination.”
In an independent study done by Appalachian State University’s Department of Economics, HCSA’s two summer tournaments, King of the Mountain in May and the Appalachian Classic in August, together generate a total boost of around $955,000 to the local economy.
“A lot of people only know of HCSA as a soccer club that serves the local youth, but when we host these tournaments, we also bring more than 5,500 out-of-town visitors,” says Suyao. “The great thing about youth travel soccer is it’s usually a family affair, so the whole family of each player usually comes together and makes a mini-vacation of it on tournament weekends. In addition to the tournaments, regular league games in Boone during the spring and fall soccer seasons will bring more than 10,000 soccer visitors annually from the visiting teams. We haven’t done an economic impact study yet for the entire year.”
High Country Soccer Association, which opened in 1986, offers soccer training to youth ranging from U6 to U18 and competes in the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association. HCSA also operates winter futsal youth training and the local adult leagues. In all, HCSA has more than 600 youth players and more than 300 adult players from five different counties.
“In January 2018, when the Boone Chamber presented an independent study of sports tourism done by DSA Sports LLC, we were excited to hear their analysis of the impact of soccer tournaments,” Suyao continues. “It’s nice to hear an expert analysis confirm what we’ve been doing, give legitimacy to our sport, and present we’re on the right path. During our tournaments, we partner with local hotels to help provide group rates that benefit everyone and we allow our restaurant sponsors to distribute coupons at TMSC. But we’re always looking to improve our tournaments, and make them even bigger.”