Harford County could see a $15 million economic impact in 2013 and 2014 from the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship regional tournaments planned at Cedar Lane Park near Bel Air.
Marie Langford, executive director of Maryland State Youth Soccer Association, or MSYSA, spoke to the Harford County Economic Development Advisory Board at its monthly meeting in Aberdeen last Wednesday about what the county should expect from the 2013 regional tournament.
"I want this to be successful for all of us," Langford said, explaining it was her intention to alert the county of the "impact that this tournament will have here in Harford County."
Langford said last year MSYSA had 66,500 registered players, 2,500 registered referees and 4,000 registered coaches.
There are four regions in the national organization, and Region I, which Maryland is part of, is comprised of 15 states plus Europe. There are more than 266 teams in the region, Langford added.
What the championship will mean for Harford County, she continued, is 5,000 players and 16,000 total visitors coming to the area booking 11,400 total room nights at area hotels.
Next year's competition will take place June 27 through July 2, and the 2014 regional championship will be June 26 through July 1.
Based on numbers from last year's economic impact, Harford is looking at a $15 million boost in the economy, Langford said.
She explained that every state association first has a state championship. That winner goes on to compete in the regional competition, which Harford will host in 2013 and 2014. The winner of regionals moves on to the national championship.
"Take advantage of these 16,000 visitors," Langford said, stressing that many families come before the competition, stay afterward and make a vacation out of the experience. "Give them something to stay here for."
Opening ceremonies, which Langford likened to a smaller version of the Olympics, will take place at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, where players will parade into the stadium carrying flags.
"It's huge," she said.
With such a large event, Langford said the county would need to give cooperation to support the event.
Assistance would be needed from local law enforcement, the department of transportation and nearby hospitals, in case of an emergency.
One thing MSYSA will be looking for, mainly from non-participating soccer teams and enthusiasts, is plenty of volunteers.
Langford expects there to be around 500 on-site volunteers and staff.