Local tourney turns 10 today

Friday, January 2, 2004

The St. Francis Indoor Invitational soccer tournament celebrates its 10-year anniversary as the event kicks off today at 5 p.m. at three locations on the Southeast Missouri State University campus.

The annual tournament was first organized in 1995 with 41 teams involved, but a decade later the competition has grown to 97 teams, with age groups ranging from under-8 boys to under-18 boys and girls.

"There tends to be more boys teams than girls teams," said David Ross, director of the tournament. "It's about a 2:1 ratio because there seems to be a lot more traveling and club teams with the boys than the girls. Many times we have to combine age divisions with the girls to get enough teams."

The tournament's 160 games this year will be played on two courts at the Show-Me Center, two in the Southeast Student Recreational Center and one in Houck Field House.

"We'll play five games an hour, every hour on the hour," said Ross, "from Friday at 5 to Sunday at 6."

Besides Missouri, the St. Francis Indoor Invitational will host teams from Mississippi, Illinois and Kentucky. Ross credits the tournament's popularity to the fast-paced intensity of indoor soccer.

"The people like what's offered," he said. "The kids seem to have a lot of fun because the ball always stays in play unlike outdoor soccer. The youngsters find out they just run around, and when they get tired they come and go back in quick because there's no breaking for substitutions. It's just on-the-fly subs."

Ross, along with other tournament officials and Show Me Center staff members, have been planning the event since mid-November, working the schedule out, putting teams in different brackets, and obtaining rosters and payments from the teams.

Ross received help from a local volunteer soccer team to aid in the construction of the various courts, which started when Southeast began Christmas break on Dec. 20. The group worked more than 12 hours Wednesday in effort to have the fields ready for action today.

"It's a hectic job," Ross said, "but I think everyone enjoys it."

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