Viking Cup cancelation hurts North Kitsap Soccer Club's bottom line

POULSBO — Soccer fans won’t be tipping their cups to an annual rite this year, leaving the North Kitsap Soccer Club in the lurch. Organizers of the Viking Cup announced in March that this year’s event, which raises enough cash to sustain the NKSC throughout the year, has been canceled.

At the moment, there are no solid plans for a replacement tournament, but the club is hosting some smaller events, like a spring academy, to earn extra cash, and would like to resume Viking Cup in 2010.

“Our hope is that there’s some additional changes to the state calendar that allow us to run it next year,” said NKSC president and Viking Cup Committee Co-Chairman Aaron Vernik. “We don’t have a firm or formal plan yet.”

Viking Cup was canceled this year because of scheduling conflicts with local select soccer club tryouts, which have changed as a result of Washington Youth Soccer’s (WYS) new state tournament schedule. According to a statement by Vernik released on the NKSC Web site, because of the schedule changes, 87 percent of the 124 teams that took part in last year’s tournament will be unable to do so this Memorial Day weekend.

The WYS state championships now wrap up in mid-May, instead of March as they had in the past. The decision to move the championships was made in early 2008, at the behest of many WYS member soccer clubs, according to WYS Director of Coaching Dave Schumacher. A number of clubs felt finishing the state tournaments in March gave players too much down time and put them out of practice leading into the U.S. Youth Soccer regional tournaments, which begin in June.

“We embarked on a series of soccer summits that took place in 2007, to find what the needs of the community were, all the way from recreational to premier,” Schumacher said. “The adjustment to that kind of calendar was a direct result of the need brought forth by the premier clubs. The membership came to (the WYS board) with a need, and they responded by approving the schedule.”

While Schumacher said the recent changes are the first major schedule alterations in 30 years, he added further adjustments are possible, but would depend on what works best for the majority of soccer clubs in the state.

“Whether that (schedule) will be adjusted in the future, again will be based on the input from the clubs,” he said.

Vernik said he understands the desire of other clubs to hold the state tournaments in May rather than March, but is not certain the schedule changes are best for most of the clubs in the state.

“I kind of see the reasoning behind some of the changes,” Vernik said. “But I think that the changes affect a few clubs positively and a lot of clubs negatively. I would imagine that we are not the only club that’s going to be impacted like this.”

As early as May of 2008, there were rumblings of this year’s Cup being in jeopardy. The Viking Cup Organizing Committee had hoped to work around the new WYS schedule, but based on low participation projections, the inability to find enough available referees and a desire to avoid stepping on the toes of other clubs by moving the Cup to another date, the group decided in February to put the kibosh on this year’s events. Other local clubs that traditionally host May tournaments have adjusted in different ways. The Snohomish United Invitational, which usually takes place the second weekend of May, when the new state championships will be played, has moved to July 10-12. Gig Harbor’s Tyee Cup traditionally took place the weekend prior to Viking Cup, but moved in 2008 to late July, in anticipation of the new WYS schedule.

Vernik said Viking Cup generated between $16,000-18,000 for NKSC teams last year, and 2008 was one of the most successful years in recent history for the tournament. Vernik does not expect to recoup all the money lost in the Cup’s absence, but said he and the NKSC have tossed around some ideas, including partnering with the Kitsap Pumas for a fundraiser.

“Anything we do to kind of help knock down the difference between that 16 to 18,000 and what we actually do make will help,” said Vernik.

The NKSC will likely not be the only group to lose money in the Cup’s absence. Local businesses may also take a hit. Vernik estimated last year’s Viking Cup brought between $200,000 and $500,000 into the community, between hotel stays, restaurant bills and shopping.

“I know that in years past, we would have quite a few wives and children that would come down and shop the town,” said Jeanne Snouwaert, owner of The Nordic Maid on Poulsbo’s Front Street. “I’m sure there will be some effect.”

Soon Hood, owner of The Book Stop, echoed Snouwaert’s sentiment. “We’ll definitely miss it. It brings a lot of families down that don’t normally come down.”

So far, plans to revive Viking Cup are still nebulous. Vernik said he will have a better idea of whether and when Viking Cup will take place in 2010 by late fall, when WYS releases its final 2010 calendar.

“Our hope is that it goes off again on Memorial Day weekend,” said Vernik. “But if the calendar doesn’t change, we’ll have to look at alternative formats.”

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