It’s still kicking after 20 years

Now in its 20th year, Viking Cup has brought around 140 teams and more than 2,000 youngsters to North Kitsap to play in what has become the area’s largest sporting event.

But NK’s premier soccer tournament had humble beginnings in 1984, spanning all of 32 — mostly local — teams, that needed only one facility with which to play their games.

“It was a small beginning — but everything starts small,” said Tim Burns, whose wife Maxine founded the tournament. “It was still quite a few people (then) but nothing compared to what it has become.”

This year, hotels from Bremerton to Kingston are once again sold out to families coming from as far as Canada and Oregon. Those who’ve been to a fair share of the Cup’s games over the years know that this kind of success couldn’t have happened without Tim and Maxine Burns.

The Burns family, whose name has become nearly synonymous with North Kitsap soccer, wanted to create a hometown contest for area “soccer families” traveling with their budding young athletes to tournaments across the nation.

“We had been taking teams to different tournaments and we wanted to have a local event like that for our kids to play in,” Maxine Burns said. “It was done basically to provide local kids with a tournament.”

There was a time when Viking Fest and Viking Cup ran the same weekend. But the latter simply got too big and the events were staggered.

“Hotel rooms freed up a lot more after that,” Tim Burns said.

But the hotel rooms began to fill back up over the years, and at one point the tournament was 230 teams big, utilizing field space on Bainbridge Island as well.

Mark Philiposian, North Kitsap Soccer Club Vice President of Publicity and Fund-raising, said the event has provided a major economic push for the Poulsbo and the North Kitsap area.

“The hotels are booked 100 percent for the weekend,” Philiposian said. “It’s great for Poulsbo and the region.”

The event also helps sustain the North Kitsap Soccer Club for the entire year, as well as subsidize soccer for kids by helping keep costs to the players low.

“It sure brings a lot of people to the community,” said Vicki Whiteley, the North Kitsap Soccer Club Treasurer. “And it’s the main fund-raiser for the club — kind of nice to do this once a year rather than sell candy bars.”

Teri Ishihara, North Kitsap Vikings girls’ head coach, participated in the event for six years starting in 1995. Ishihara, who has also coached FC Kitsap teams as well as an Olympic Development Team, said she has been impressed with the professionalism of the event.

“It’s one of the most famous tournaments and the most popular,” she said of Viking Cup. “It draws teams from all over. And it’s very well organized.”

Ishihara said the main difference in the event she’s seen over the years is the ever-improving quality of play.

“In the beginning, it was directed at recreational teams,” Ishihara said. “And it’s become one of the premier tournaments in the area this time of the year.”

Pat Stickney, head soccer coach for the North Kitsap Viking boys, said the event has simply become what it is today because of its founders, Tim and Maxine Burns.

“This was their baby,” Stickney said of the Burns. “They were Viking Cup and in spirit they still are.”

Tim Burns said the most amazing thing is that, even after 20 years, Viking Cup is still running strong.

“Personally, I never thought it would have lasted this long,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

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