The sixth annual Julian Brown Memorial Cup took place recently throughout south Charlotte and Rock Hill, attracting more than 350 teams from across the southeastern United States, France, Canada, England and the Bahamas.
The Julian Brown Memorial Fund was developed in 2005 after former Charlotte United teammates Brown and Matthew Helms died April 18, 2004, while touring France for a soccer tournament. Brown was a freshman midfielder and straight-A student at Myers Park High School.
Proceeds go to the foundation, which provides scholarships for players in need who excel both on the field and in the classroom.
The first event was held in 2005 and had 150 teams participating. In 2010 nearly 350 teams participated in 10 locations throughout Charlotte.
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"Every year it seems to get bigger and better," said John Tart, head coach of the under-10 North Mecklenburg Soccer Club Academy team. "I think what happens is that word spreads about how good the tournament is, and everybody wants to get into it."
The three-day tournament culminated April 18 with awards ceremonies for winning teams. The weekend was filled with events including penalty shootouts, clinics and showcase games featuring England's Reading FC against Greensboro YSA Academy and Canada's Dixie Athletics.
At Elon Park off Ardrey Kell Road, eight fields had games continuously throughout the weekend.
"This is the first time I've been here and it is really nice. You see tons of families just spending time together," said Jorge Herrera, a part-time youth coach and member of the Charlotte Eagles, a professional team in the United Soccer Leagues. "It is great to see soccer is so popular in Charlotte and how all of this can help the foundation."
The games on the field were competitive, from the 9-year-old division through the 18-year-olds, and the action and emotions were the same for players, parents and coaches.
"This year's event was a great success," said Sean Sassano, assistant tournament director, Charlotte United member and head coach. "I would give it a perfect 10."