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Friday, October 31, 2014
Two days, 400 teams, 1,000 games
In its 35th year, locally-run soccer tournament is bigger than ever
Peter Frutkoff/Herald
Ryan Lao prepared to send a ball flying.

A year’s worth of preparation by members of the East Meadow Soccer Club culminated last weekend in a tournament in which 6,000 players competed on fields throughout Long Island.

The 35th annual East Meadow Summer Tournament welcomed 400 teams from across the Northeast — including a squad from Canada — for more than 1,000 games in just two days, played on 50 fields at facilities including Arthur J. Speno Memorial Park, Salisbury Park Drive’s Field of Dreams and McVey Elementary School, all in East Meadow.

The club, now its 41st year, began the event in 1978 as a small tournament to prepare athletes for the fall season. Each summer, however, word of the tournament spread, and more teams wanted to take part, club president Eric Schwartz said. The tournament reached its peak three years ago, when 500 teams registered. “It’s one of the largest in the Northeast at this point,” Schwartz said.

The event has grown so large that as soon as it ends, club members begin planning the next one. “We’ve already started planning next year’s tournament,” said Steven Epstein, who has served as tournament director for the last eight years. “It’s a yearlong project.”

The preparations, Epstein explained, include soliciting teams, obtaining field permits, requesting sanctions from a variety of soccer associations, completing registration, ordering equipment and trophies, and scheduling.

Other committee members include Danny Alonzo, Phil Hoenscheid, Tom Alio, Anne Zajack, Bob Grieser, Sean Russell and C.J. Orlando, all from East Meadow.

Scheduling so many games in so little time is a daunting challenge, but club members go the extra mile by studying each participating team’s history to ensure that it is grouped with other teams of the same skill level. “What we pride ourselves on is providing a competitive level of play for every team that enters,” Schwartz said.

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