Registration is underway for a new youth soccer tournament in Scottsbluff.
Organizers of the Panhandle Cup are hoping to bring in teams from across western Nebraska.
“We don’t know what to expect the first year,” Western Nebraska Football Club director Nate Rock said. “We’re hoping it becomes a tradition.”
The inaugural Panhandle Cup will take place from Aug. 27 – 29 at the Lander’s Soccer Complex. Rock said it was born from a desire to have families watch their children play without needing to travel.
“A lot of our fans have been traveling throughout the region,” he said. “We wanted to provide the community with an alternative tournament.”
The Cup will feature teams of five competing in several age-specific brackets, with children as young as 7 or as old as 19.
“It’s not full-size soccer,” he said, “but it’s fun, it’s quick, and it’s entertaining.”
The league aims to have 10 fields at the complex active per day, with a game every hour on the hour.
Rock said each team is guaranteed at least three games.
There are currently 15 teams signed up, and there are still some of the 12 competitive WNFC teams yet to register. Registration opened in mid-June.
With more than 500 kids across its competitive and recreational teams, the league is experiencing its highest participation ever.
The tournament will be put on in conjunction with Nebraska State Soccer.
“We are really excited about all that Nate and the WNFC are doing,” NSS executive director Casey Mann said via email. “We try to support them in many ways, from education and support of coaches … to assisting in promoting the new Panhandle Cup throughout the state.”
The Panhandle Cup is not the only new competition the WNFC plans to launch.
In addition to serving as WNFC director, Rock is also coach of the men’s soccer team at Scottsbluff High School.
Several alumni from both his program and the WNFC have requested an adult league. This September, the league will finally launch one.
“The board has kicked the idea around for years,” Rock said. “We don’t move as fast as we used to, but we still have that competitive drive.”
The adult competition will have a season dictated by the number of teams signing up, Rock said.
It will open play on Sept. 12 and host games at Lander’s complex on Sunday afternoons.
Unlike the Panhandle Cup, the adult league will have seven players per team.
Rock said there are other adult leagues throughout the Panhandle, but the organizers of the WNFC wanted to make their own the best it can be.
While the club has plans for additional programs later on, the adult league and Panhandle Cup will be the only ones arriving this summer.
“We want to get it established and see how it grows from there,” he said. “We really want to be the hub of soccer in western Nebraska.