Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University will host an Olympic-style opening ceremony Thursday, June 25, for the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championships that get underway Friday at the Barboursville Soccer Complex and on fields in Huntington.


The festive opening ceremony will take place at Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium on the Huntington campus, beginning at 3:45 p.m., when the Team Fastrax Professional Skydiving Team parachutes into the stadium.


Gates open to the public at 2 p.m. and admission is free. Free parking will be available on all Marshall University surface lots.


Pre-opening ceremony activities at the stadium are planned as well. From 2 to 3 p.m. near Gate B at the stadium, Marco – the Marshall mascot – will be available for photos with the athletes or members of their families. Crossbar competition starts at 3 p.m., a tug of war among mascots and coaches begins at 3:20 p.m., and a five-on-five soccer game featuring the mascots starts at 3:30 p.m.

Approximately 5,000 soccer players, ages 11-18, will participate in the tournament and the Olympic-style parade, which is expected to last about an hour. The players, who will make up about 260 boys’ and girls’ teams, will first be seated in designated areas and will then parade onto the field beginning at 4:14 p.m.

The official start of the ceremony is right after the skydivers complete their jumps. At that time West Virginia Soccer Association President Len Rogers will deliver greetings to a crowd that is expected to number around 20,000. The singing and playing of the National Anthem follows, and then West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will greet the crowd.


Natalie Schwoeble, U.S. Youth Soccer Region 1 director, will bring greetings as well.


Marshall, in addition to serving as host of the opening ceremony, is providing housing for players, their families, guests and referees in several residence halls, including Twin Towers, Buskirk Hall, all four of the Marshall Commons halls and the First Year Freshman North hall.


Many of Marshall’s dining facilities, including Starbucks, will be open at selected times throughout the tournament. For the exact hours of service, visitwww.marshall.edu/soccer.


“Our Marshall University soccer committee has been working very hard to make sure that their stay is welcoming, positive and memorable,” said William “Tootie” Carter, Memorial Student Center business manager.


The states represented at the tournament are Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia. Hotels are expected to be filled from Ashland, Ky., and Ironton, Ohio, to Charleston.


This tournament was last held here in 2009 and 2010. The official economic impact on the area in 2009 reportedly was $12.1 million.


Some of the games will be played at the Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex, home of Marshall’s men’s and women’s teams. Carter said representatives from the Office of Recruitment and the Marshall Bookstore will be on hand during those games. The bookstore will be open on campus every day except Sunday during the tournament.