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16,000 soccer players ready to kick off mammoth tourney

METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – The Needham Memorial Day Tournament enters its 37th year this weekend. It’s the largest youth soccer tournament in the country. And it’s still growing.

According to tournament director Mark Miskin, the tournament has reached its highest number of participants yet, with over 900 teams from across the country, Canada and even the United Kingdom traveling to Massachusetts for the four-day competition and college showcase. Host sites include Gillette Stadium, Framingham, Natick, Holliston and Hopkinton, among others across the state.

Between the number of teams, the amount of players is expected to total around 16,000. The number of spectators figures to hover somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000.

After last year’s tournament, as he does every year, Miskin took the numbers to the Boston Convention and Visitor Bureau for a projection of the tournament’s economic impact. It concluded that the tournament brought in over $8 million worth of business.

This year, Marlborough is making a play for a piece of the pie.

Marlborough MA Ghiloni Park Soccer Field
The City of Marlborough's Ghiloni Park soccer fields are wide open and ready for the games

Though the city has worked in conjunction with the tournament in the past with providing hotel accommodations for some of the teams, this year it will take its participation to a new level.

As arranged by the Marlborough Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), the city will host 56 girls teams, with the Best Western Royal Plaza, Embassy Suites, the Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn & Suites and the Residence Inn all fully booked for the weekend.

In addition, Marlborough will serve as one of the host sites, providing six fields for competition, with 91 games taking place over the weekend at Ghiloni Park and Marlborough High School. Meanwhile, the ForeKicks II Sports Complex will host 22 college showcase games.

“We’ve been able to utilize the hotels for a few years now,” said Miskin. “And I think because of that the MEDC came to us and realized we were kind of filling up these hotels, and they figured why not (play) here? And maybe make a bit more of an impact with their restaurants.”

According to Tim Cummings, Director of Operations at the MEDC, Marlborough’s hospitality industry made it a natural fit as a host site.

“It’s no secret that Marlborough has a lot of hotel rooms, so as the tournament grows along the Route 495 corridor, Marlborough is situated to leverage this position,” said Cummings. “From our perspective working with Mark has been extremely rewarding and we hope to further develop this relationship so the ancillary businesses like restaurants, hotels and mom and pop businesses benefit from the foot-traffic this tournament will generate.”

The economic benefit to the city figures to be significant. Local hotels and restaurants will likely see the largest bump in business. But Miskin is quick to point out that other local business will feel a kick, from car rental services to gas stations to convenient stores and local entertainment industries.

“We feel that we bring a lot to the community, a lot to Metrowest,” said Miskin. “As we’ve grow the last few years, we’ve had bigger growth with the teams coming in from the outside staying in the area. The teams from England just arrived and started their training. It’s an expensive trip for them, but it’s also a tour trip.”

In his position as Vice Chairman of the MEDC, Richard Tomanek played a key role in fostering the partnership between the city and the tournament. In addition, he works as the General Manager for Embassy Suites Hotel. In that position, he’s already seen the benefits up close.

“Memorial Day is a time when historically the business might be a little slower with people traveling for the holiday weekend,” said Tomanek. “So the Sunday and Monday business is a big opportunity … You think about two or three nights of occupancy that way and it certainly can add up to 300 to 400 additional room nights. That equates to a couple thousand room nights pretty quickly.”

This story originally appeared here.