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RV Cup prepares for 10th annual tournament

Eleven years ago, Mike Dunn and several others planned a soccer tournament.

Forty teams seemed about right. Boys. Girls. Several youth divisions.

He thought it was a wild idea at the time.

Now look at the Rogue Valley Cup, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend.

— Teams? One-hundred-fifty-eight.

Players? About 3,000.

Parents, siblings and the like? Another 7,000.

Economic impact? About &

36;10 million, based on standard tourism industry multipliers, making it one of the Rogue Valley's most lucrative endeavors.

We never envisioned it would be this big, says Dunn, president of both the Rogue Valley Cup Association and the Rogue Valley Soccer Club. We didn't initially want it to be this big.

Now, we jokingly say we 'herd' it. It's turned into this big, fuzzy, lovable beast that we herd through. I'm not really sure we run it anymore.

That first year, 1994, Dunn and cohorts Mike Lane, Buzz Thielemann and George Andries saw the fruit of nine months of planning. There were 72 teams and none were turned away. A year later, 100 teams played and roughly 15 were turned back.

Since then, the Cup has averaged 130 to 140 teams and, annually, from 75 to 150 are denied entry.

This year's event will be the largest ever by about 20 teams.

Eighteen boys and girls divisions ranging from under-11 to under-19 will use 18 fields in the area, including six in Ashland.

We've always said we can take 160 teams, says Dunn, noting there isn't enough lodging to go more. But we won't take that many if the quality is not that good.

Three-quarters of the teams come from four to 10 hours away, says Dunn, and the average family spends &

36;200 a day.

We don't want them to have to play weaker teams we accepted just to fill out the tournament that they beat 9-1 or 6-0 or something like that. That's why we capped it at 130 or 140 in the past.

The quality is there this year. More than 90 percent of the teams, says Dunn, are of premier caliber, the highest level. More than 40 are gold, silver or bronze medal teams from their respective Snickers State Cup competitions, some of which will use this tournament to prepare for regionals in three weeks in Hawaii.

The quality is the best we've had in the past three or four years, says Dunn.

Most of the teams begin arriving today, the bulk of them coming from throughout Oregon, Northern California, the Seattle area and the Reno, Nev., area.

Restaurants, hotels and motels will be filled from north of Grants Pass to south of Ashland.

In addition, golf courses, malls and other merchants will benefit. Cup visitors have been known to buy anything from soccer equipment to computers and vehicles.

One dealer sold two Suburbans a couple of years ago, says Dunn, to soccer visitors from Portland and Reno.

I love getting calls after the Cup from local business establishments, says Dunn.

The tournament benefits players, too, particularly those with designs on playing college soccer.

Dunn expects about 20 collegiate coaches to scout players this weekend. Many of the coaches have been coming for years.

They love to come to tournaments like this around the country, he says. Instead of a high school game, where you watch two teams, here you can watch 30 teams from five states.

Among the highlights of the weekend is the Goalie Wars from 9 to 11 Saturday night at North Medford High.

Goalkeepers spend five minutes firing shots at one another trying to score points. Eventually, the best in each division is determined.

Although admission is free, Dunn had counters at the gate the past couple years, and more than 3,000 spectators streamed through each time.

Some teams have very good keepers, but they have very good players in front of them and don't get to show off their skills, says Dunn. They never get to touch the ball. In this, they're diving horizontally or getting — feet off the ground to push the ball over the goal. They take it very seriously. You'd think it was the deciding point in a shootout in the World Cup the way some of the keepers take it on Saturday night out there.

They treat it like the big time, which it certainly has become.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail