With a goal of bringing economic benefit to town, the 20th annual Nordic Cup soccer tournament will kick off this weekend at Milton High School.

Five full-sized fields at MHS will house 62 teams as they compete for the cup starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 17. The overall tournament hosts 232 teams from around the region and Canada, Nordic director of operations and Milton resident Marcel Choquette said.

“I’m excited for our local businesses because I think when you bring that many people into our own community, it’s gonna make an economic impact in terms of food, shopping, gas and whatever else,” Choquette said.

The 20th annual Nordic Cup soccer tournament kicks off at Milton High School this weekend, and organizers hope the town’s destination status will be an economic boon to local businesses. (File photo)

The tournament attracts 12,000 players from the under-9 to under-19 age groups, he added. Across the county and into Stowe, players will compete at a total of 10 venues and 39 soccer fields.

Milton was home to the Nordic Cup once before, Choquette said, but never at this capacity. While Bombardier Park was used in the past, “the luxury” of numerous fields at MHS will offer a real tournament-like feel for players.

Many Nordic players will also have a home-field advantage in Milton.

“Milton is such a big soccer town,” MHS athletic director Mike Jabour said, noting the high percentage of Miltonians who play for teams participating in the tournament like Nordic and Far Post soccer clubs.

Jabour agreed with Choquette that hosting one of Vermont’s largest soccer events will not only highlight Milton’s soccer players and fields, but what the entire town has to offer.

Last Monday, representatives from the high school’s athletic leadership council were out lining and setting up the fields in preparation for the big weekend. After Choquette proposed using Milton as a venue at the beginning of the calendar year, Jabour jumped on board, calling the collaboration “a huge opportunity” for the council, who is facilitating the event as a fundraiser.

At a fee of $400 per field, the dozen-or-so students will raise $2,000 for their council.

Hopefully, Jabour said, this year’s partnership will create a longer-lasting collaboration framework for Nordic and Milton.

Come June 30, Jabour is moving on from MHS and onto South Burlington, where he’ll fill the role of athletic director in his native town.

While he won’t be the one pushing the council forward, he said he expects his replacement — who is yet to be announced — will continue working with the group on its vision. This week’s tournament prep work, he said, gives them a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making a tourney as vast as Nordic’s work.

Games on Saturday at MHS span from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. and resume Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those who qualify for playoffs — by notching either the number one or top two seeds, depending on age groups — will then travel to the Essex Tree Farm fields for championship matches.

When the whistle blows Saturday morning, fans can catch U-13, U-14 and U-15 games kick off. Games are free, and anybody is welcome to stop by and watch, Choquette said.   

For the first time in tournament history, Choquette said the club is tracking the event’s economic impact on both state and local levels. By using a web-based tourney platform called RoomRoster, the organization will collect concrete data to analyze. All participants and families who booked a hotel for the weekend were required to do so through the Nordic site, Choquette explained.

As soon as the 2017 affair concludes, planning immediately starts for 2018, he added.

According to acting town manager Don Turner, working with organizations like Nordic shows Milton is open for business.

Heightened traffic is good for businesses in town, he added, and allows Milton to showcase its great amenities.

Acknowledging Milton’s soccer history, Turner reflected on a strong youth program and multiple high school championships. Growing up, two of his three daughters played for the Nordic club, too.

The town is happy to showcase its facilities whenever possible, Turner said. 

  “I think it’s a win, win, win, and I hope we continue to bring events like this to the community in the future,” he added.