ALTON – The city threw a high-profile youth soccer party the past weekend at Moore Park. Hundreds of players and dozens of teams embraced it.
So did Laura Leber. She really loved it.
Leber is a senior events manager for Kick It of Denver, Colo. The national group held a 3v3 Super Regional at Moore and Leber liked what she saw. The top teams in various divisions advance to the 3v3 nationals, set for Jan. 17-19 in Orlando, Fla. Players, ages 6-30, participated last Saturday and Sunday.
“We had good weather and 100 teams,” Leber said. “About 80 percent of the teams registered the week before the regional.”
Thus, Leber and her staff -- plus the Alton Recreation Department -- were busy putting the project together in quick fashion. She said that’s typical.
“Somehow, it all came through,” Leber said, smiling.
Sissy McClain, the sales manager for the Alton Regional Convention Visitors Bureau, made her contributions to the event. And she enjoyed seeing soccer throughout the park. The community played host to a regular regional last summer.
“We’re happy with it and it’s marvelous to have a (Super) Regional – the bigger the better,” McClain said. “We had a lot of people from the St. Louis area and from Springfield and Chicago.”
That’s why Alton served as a Super Regional site. Location, location, location. It was a regional spot last summer, but received good reviews from Kick It. So it joined Vali, Colo., and York, Pa., as the places for the Super Regionals.
“We like a lot of things about having it here,” Leber said of Alton. “There’s plenty of parking and plenty of room for play. We usually play three games at a time on a field.”
Leber said, “Alton is also centrally located in the Midwest for people from St. Louis and Chicago. It’s a quick drive and that makes it very convenient.”
One more thing. “Alton has a small-town feel to it,” Leber said, stressing the importance of that point.
The event will return to Moore Park in 2015 and Kick It likely will stay with the Super Regional format. “There’s a lot of quality competition for the size of this tournament,” Leber said.
She added, “Colorado is a hotbed for youth soccer, but Illinois is second to Florida as the most represented state in 3v3 competition. You will see about 70 of these teams (from Alton) going to the nationals.”
The popularity of 3v3 continues to increase, Leber noted. “You can have more teams with 3v3 play and it’s focused on offense,” she said. “Parents like the high-scoring style of it and players can really work on their skills. They are more involved in the play."