Taking it to the Extreme | ParkRecord.com

Taking it to the Extreme

Matthew Piper, OF THE RECORD STAFF

One by one, Arsenal SC’s 10- and 11-year-olds sent their coach flying this way and that across the net.

It was only a post-match penalty shootout, an intrasquad game following a 10-0 opening victory, but the under-11 boys’ club team from Lehi could have been mistaken for its London namesake. Not only were the young "footballers" clinical from the penalty spot, they treated each other and coaches with a professional courtesy you would expect on Premiership practice grounds.

The team is only in its first year, fresh off a debut triumph in Roy’s Rampage Classic, and chose to come to the seventh annual Park City Extreme Cup to see where it stands among the region’s elite. "A lot of the best teams seem to be here," said head coach Scott Mumford. "There’s three divisions in our age group."

It is the largest youth soccer tournament in Utah at 260 teams – up from 204 last year, when they had to turn teams away because of space and time constraints. Running from Thursday to Saturday, the Cup brings about 4,000 boys and girls between ages 8 and 18.

"We set a goal for this, and we are right on track," said fourth-year tournament director Heather Fox, who noted the event attracted just 48 teams five years ago. "This is the most desired tournament in the state now. It’s really due to the fact that we have such beautiful venues and environment here in Park City."

The Park City Chamber/Bureau said the event has a positive impact on the county, but it is hoping it becomes known more as a destination tournament beyond Utah’s borders through heavy marketing.

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"To be honest, it’s a Thursday, Friday, Saturday event," said Special Events Director Bob Kollar. "In the past, it’s been primarily an in-state tournament. We’re working with them to get more out-of-state teams."

Fox said organizers understand the Chamber’s perspective and have garnered teams from five other states in 2010. To boost lodging and restaurant sales, they made Park City’s suitability for a weekend vacation a selling point of the tournament.

Mike Guetschow, a former PCHS boys’ soccer coach who is serving as North 40 field marshall, said the growth of the tournament hasn’t affected the product. "Every team that’s come in here has been so complimentary of the condition of the fields, and the parks crew has done a great job getting everything ready."

Fields for the tournament include Quinn’s Junction, Trailside Park, Ecker Hill International Middle School, North 40, Treasure Mountain Middle School, Willow Creek Park and a venue in Oakley. Games run from early morning to late evening at all locations, with championship games Saturday. The event is run by more than 100 parent and family volunteers who help with venue coordination, concessions, field play and information booths.

Gold, silver and, in some divisions, bronze brackets separate teams according to skill to prevent blowouts (though Arsenal SC would not play along). "I wanted it to be a positive experience for any level of play," Fox said. "That has made it really popular. For a club like Park City’s, with players of all different abilities, it’s nice because you can just bring the whole club."

Unlike the Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series, which featured just one team from Summit County in three weeks of play, the Extreme Cup includes local teams in almost every division. John Cairel, a former Major League Soccer player who coaches U-18 and U-16 boys’ teams for the Park City Soccer Club, said the tournament is one of the reasons he came to Park City from California, and his U-16 team won a championship last year.

"We’re a competitive club that’s growing, and we’re getting better," Cairel said, adding that many of the area’s young players have versatile backgrounds. "There’s so many great athletes in town. You have the dynamics of the ski jumping and all that. When you go to the valley, a lot of those kids are just waiting for the next soccer season."

The tournament serves as a primary fundraiser for the Park City Soccer Club, and Cairel said it could become one of the West’s top showcase tournaments – complete with college scouts – in years to come.

"I would say maybe one more year, or two more years, and then it has showcase potential for sure, but we need those other teams, those academy (elite national) teams, to come in," Cairel said.

For schedules, guidelines and more information on the Extreme Cup, visit http://www.parkcityextremecup.com. Results from games are usually posted within 30 minutes of the final whistle. Real Salt Lake mascot Leo the Lion is expected to make appearances at all venues.