Tom Velek wants to put on a good show.
As tournament director for the Mississippi Soccer Association’s President’s Cup, Velek has spent much of the past week making sure all of the details have been taken care of for Columbus’ first opportunity to play host to what he called “Mississippi’s biggest soccer party.”
The “party”, the MSA’s Division II state tournament, will be the state’s largest tournament and will feature girls and boys action in five age divisions (Under-9, U-10, U-12, U-14, and U-16) and in U-18 girls. For some of the age divisions, the tournament will be a qualifier for the President’s Cup Regionals on June 12-15 in Decatur, Alabama
More than one hundred teams and more than 4,800 visitors are expected to descend on Columbus for the weekend, which will kick off Friday and run through Sunday. Matches will be played at the Columbus Soccer Complex, the Cook Soccer Complex, and Columbus High School.
Velek, who is the director of coaching for Columbus United Soccer Club, will coach two teams in the President’s Cup. The teams will be two of five that will represent Columbus. Teams from Caledonia, Starkville, and Amory also will represent the area.
“For most of these teams, the President’s Cup is the culmination of a very long season,” Velek said. “Most of the teams started playing in September with maybe a break during the winter, so they have been playing for a long time and have a lot of games under their belts.”
Not only does Velek hopes the city of Columbus puts on a good impression for everyone this weekend, he also hopes Columbus’ teams can compete for spots in the Region Championships. He feels the city’s teams have good chances to realize those goals against some of the state’s toughest competition.
“(The state of Mississippi’s) Division II teams are really some of our best teams in the state,” Velek said. “A lot of states use their Division II teams as their de facto Division I programs.”
The President’s Cup will be the biggest soccer tournament the city has played host to. Last October, Columbus played host to the Coaches Cup, recreational tournament that crowned champions in seven age groups for girls and boys, at the Columbus Soccer Complex. That tournament featured about one quarter the number of teams that will be in town this weekend.
Velek also hopes having the tournament in Columbus for the first time will give the local teams an advantage. As a veteran coach who has traveled many miles over the years to compete in tournaments throughout the state, Velek hopes all of the hard work from all of the parties involved will pay off this weekend.
“We have spent a lot of years on the road,” Velek said. “(Organizing this tournament) has been a challenge. I hope in the end all of the hard work produces a quality athletic event for the entire state.”
Check-in for the teams will be from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the Trotter Convention Center. There will be a mandatory meeting for coaches at 7:15 p.m. There also will be a mandatory meeting for referees at 7:45 p.m.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.