DUNBAR, W.Va — One of the top youth soccer tournaments is bringing its young talent to Dunbar’s Shawnee Sports Complex.

The US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional Championships began play Thursday featuring group winners from 15 different states. The tournament will last through next Wednesday and will be split up between Shawnee Sports Complex in Dunbar and Barboursville Soccer Complex.

The regional tournament, which features youth from ages 13 to 19 years old, will have three days of group play for clubs to try to advance further in the tournament. Winners of each respective final will punch their tickets to the US Youth Soccer National Championships in Florida next month.

Flo Egan, the tournament’s program manager, says attracting this big of a tournament is a huge honor for Dunbar and the area in whole.

“For the level of play to come in here and to attract these types of tournaments to this area, I think it’s important,” Egan said Thursday morning. “It’s an economic impact for the people that live here and the city of Dunbar.”

This is the fifth consecutive year Shawnee has hosted this particular tournament, and according to Egan, the complex has been a well-deserving host.

“It’s been incredible,” Egan said. “It gets hot on the turf, but they have been outstanding as far as any need that we have coming in, they’ve been able to help us and accommodate.”

With multiple matches taking place every hour on several different fields, the tournament needed people to step up and volunteer whether it be in the concession stands, on the medical team, or the hydration team. Egan says she picked up on the selflessness of people in the area.

“The volunteer base in West Virginia is just second to none,” Egan said. “People come out and help us no matter what.”

Adam Freeman, the head coach of the Penn FC Black team, made the trip with his team from Hershey, Pennsylvania to compete for their second straight Eastern Regional Championship.

Freeman, who also serves as an assistant women’s coach for Division III Dickinson College, says he has to wear multiple hats during the tournament

“It’s a long day,” Freeman said. “There’s players we play against that I’ll be recruiting, so it’s nice to recruit the kids you get to play against. I have to do lots of breaks in between to go find air conditioning.”

Freeman, who has coached all over the eastern United States during his time as a college and travel coach, says the complex he’s coaching at this week ranks among the best.

“It’s up there with some of the top facilities on the east coast,” Freeman said when talking about Shawnee Sports Complex. “There’s some good ones in Philadelphia, there’s some good ones in New York, but I would say that it’s up there with the rest of them.”

Group play will continue to ensue at both Shawnee Sports Complex and Barboursville Soccer Complex through Saturday. Championship matches will be held at Shawnee Sports Complex.

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