The 7 Elite Academy International Tournament delivered a spectacular showcase of youth soccer as over 360 teams battled for glory in Southern Utah and Nevada.
The event, which has been dubbed “The Youth Soccer Event of the Year”, lived up to that billing during a mammoth 540 games at venues in Saint George, Washington and Mesquite.
Visitors to the tournament also delivered a timely boost to the economies in those three cities, as thousands of coaches, players and their families packed out local hotels and restaurants.
Top-flight youth players from across the United States and United Kingdom were in attendance, while an international panel of officials took charge of matches.
Scouts from around the world were in attendance, such as Germany and the UK, including some from the prestigious Steven Gerrard Academy in Liverpool.
Nick Nield, Tournament Director, said: “This has been a fantastic three days of youth soccer here in Utah. We couldn’t have asked for a better standard of play or atmosphere.
“The great thing about this tournament is it gives players from all over the place - the US west coast, the mountain west, and as far afield as the U.K., an opportunity to combine great soccer with a visit to the cities of Saint George, Washington, and Mesquite, some of the most beautiful areas in the country.
“Restaurants, shops, movie theatres and hotels all benefitted from the extra people who came to our tournament, and I am so happy about that. We believe that economic boost was well over a million dollars.
“We wanted to stage a tournament that would live long in the memories of everyone who was here and we certainly did that. I can’t thank our team of staff and volunteers enough.”
A unique aspect of the tournament, which ended on Saturday evening, was the use of of penalty shootouts after games for an extra point - extending the potential for teams to progress.
Anthony Godfrey, Academy Director at 7 Elite Academy, said: “Every year, this tournament offers a better standard of soccer and in that respect 2023 was no different.
“We are continually looking for new ways to deliver this tournament, from the officials - including a professional referee from the UK - to the introduction of penalty shootouts after games.
“These innovations are now being used by other prestigious tournaments around the world and enable us further showcase the great progress of youth soccer in Utah.
“We also flew in young people from the UK to take part in games as part of our Player Pathway. Those exchange visits will continue, as we look to create continual opportunities for development.”
Wayne Scholes, Chairman of 7 Elite Academy, was delighted with the progress shown by the tournament, which once again broke all attendance records in its sixth year.
He said: “Here at 7 Elite Academy we believe in breaking down barriers, so when we were told that 350 teams would be impossible to achieve, we went ahead and did just that.
“Now we want to look beyond that record and on to a bigger tournament in 2024. We’ll start preparing for that on Monday morning, as part of our continual growth strategy.
“The quality of soccer was again better than we’ve seen at any tournament in this region, and I believe that can once again improve at our event next year.
“I would like the thank those scouts who flew over for the tournament, especially those from Steve Gerrard Academy. They all made some very important contacts with players.
“We will also look at evolving our food and entertainment offering at all venues, as we look to retain our tag of Youth Soccer Event of the Year.”