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Local soccer event blossoms

The beginnings seven years ago for the Las Vegas Mayor’s Cup were modest.

Its purpose wasn’t to become an international youth soccer tournament, but now the Mayor’s Cup has arrived at that destination.

The tournament, scheduled Saturday through Monday, welcomes teams from 19 states and five foreign countries. Games will be played at the Bettye Wilson, Kellog-Zaher and Ed Fountain fields.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for local soccer fans to have the opportunity to be exposed literally to talent from around the world,” UNLV men’s soccer coach Mario Sanchez said.

UNLV is among 41 universities — plus a junior college –scheduled to scout the tournament. Indiana, which finished No. 9 in the men’s fall poll, is the most prestigious school in attendance.

Though this tournament includes age groups for both sexes, the boys field is considered stronger. The top teams are Skar Rostov of Russia (15-and-under), Real Madrid Academy of Mexico (16-and-under), Borussia Moenchengladbach of Germany (17-and-under) and Brighton College of England (18-and-under).

Tournament organizers began planning for this type of field in October 2006 after splitting the tournament into two weekends to accommodate the growing event. They decided to take the tournament to a higher level, and being able to play it over three days because of Presidents’ Day weekend eases potential logistical problems associated with an event that includes 190 teams.

“The city of Las Vegas started it as a little tournament to showcase the fields that had been built,” Las Vegas Soccer Club president Roger Tabor said. “They had built world-class facilities.”

Organizers worked with Rotary International, which has connections with many foreign teams to attract top clubs.

“The biggest surprise is the response we’ve been getting internationally,” Tabor said.

For schools such as UNLV, it’s a prime way to scout prospects without spending a large chunk of its recruiting budget on flying overseas. Sanchez instead needs to make only a short drive.

“We try not to take kids just on video,” Sanchez said. “You always want to see them live.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2914.

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