The 7 Elite Academy International Tournament has been declared “a wonderful showcase of soccer” after a record 198 teams battled it out for honors in Saint George and Washington City.
The three-day event, which ended with a spectacular finals day on Saturday, attracted top-level youth soccer teams from across the United States and beyond.
Thousands of players, families and coaches were treated to a feast of competitive action in the 2002 to 2012 brackets, alongside a Pre-Academy Jamboree for younger age groups.
Amongst the winners were 7 Elite Academy 02 Boys South, who beat Rangers 3-2 in a thrilling final encounter, while in the 2010 Girls category Club America came out on top against Gremio FC.
Nick Nield, Tournament Director, was delighted with the turnout from across the region’s youth soccer community.
He said: “It was fantastic to see so many great games this weekend, as well as displays of great sportsmanship from every single player, whether they won or lost.
“I was overwhelmed by the level of support of teams from families and coaches, many of whom brought along signs and banners to add to the atmosphere.
“This was a wonderful showcase of soccer and highlighted the very best that our game in Utah has to offer on so many levels.
“After the year of restrictions we’ve all experienced, it was great to see young people get out on the fields and enjoy playing competitive soccer.”
Games were held in a Covid-secure environment, with social distancing measures, hand sanitizers and face masks all in use where appropriate.
Matt Brown, 7 Elite Pre-Academy Manager, said: “I was so impressed with the competitive nature of games at our Jamboree, which was held for players in the 2013 to 2016 age groups.
“All our young players fought hard, had fun and enjoyed a competition that will hopefully give them a life-long love for soccer.
“Our jamboree wasn’t just about winning games. It was also about developing a sense of team work and responsibility in a tournament environment.
“We run weekly Pre-Academy sessions in Salt Lake City and Saint George, which aim to foster that passion for playing soccer on a regular basis.
“These sessions are becoming increasingly busy, as more young people and their families continue to enjoy our game.”
The tournament was overseen by top-level officials from across the United States, including Grade 5 referees, the Female Referee of the Year in Arizona and academy pool candidates.
Daren Woolstenhulme, CEO at 7 Elite Academy, added: “I am so proud of the team we have here at 7 Elite Academy, after they worked so hard to put on such a spectacular tournament.
“The high standard of officials was a stand-out feature that really added to the competitive nature of the event, while penalty shoot-outs gave every game a real edge.
“As an academy, we have plans in place to develop our tournament and youth soccer in general in this region over the next year.
“I know our team is already working hard on the 2022 tournament and we’ve had contact from teams in the UK and Africa wanting to attend.
“It is going to be such an exciting year for everyone connected with 7 Elite Academy.”