By DAVID LESNICK
The Daily Inter Lake
When it comes to the Flathead Soccer Club’s Three Blind Refs tournament, no advertising is necessary.
It’s popularity with club teams throughout the Pacific Northwest and Canada has grown over the years to where tournament officials now have had to politely say no to many wishing to attend.
The 26th edition of this event will be held Saturday and Sunday at Kidsports Complex (14 fields), Glacier High School (four fields) and Kalispell Middle School (two field).
Participating teams are boys and girls from 9U to 19U.
Last year more than 140 teams representing 32 different clubs from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Canada make the trek to the Flathead Valley. It’s billed as the largest soccer event in the state.
Buffalo Wild Wings is again the tournament sponsor and will do prize giveaways throughout the weekend.
There is no admission charge. Food vendors will be on-site.
All total 250 matches will be played over the course of two days on 20 fields. The action begins Saturday at 8 a.m. with final games that day starting at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday’s play begins at 8 a.m. with all championship matches be held from 12:30-5 p.m. at Kidsports Complex.
“This year, we are up to almost 150 teams,” tournament director Jill Marlow said.
“We have more Canadian teams this year than before. I want to say 60 teams are coming from Alberta and British Columbia. One team will have an eight hour drive.”
Marlow said she’s still getting requests from clubs to play in this year’s event, but has had to turn them away.
“I’ve written the schedule,” she said.
“Once you do that, it’s hard to enter teams.”
Marlow, who is also the program director for the Flathead Soccer Club, is overseeing Three Blind Refs for a fourth-straight year.
“I do, I definitely do,” she said of being in a panic mode days before the action starts.
“I do get excited, too. It’s a lot of fun to put on.
“We get a lot of compliments,” she continued.
“People just like the organization of it. They say we have the best fields in the state and it’s a nice complex.”
The complex will get even larger in the fall of 2020 when seven more soccer fields are completed.
“Once we get the new fields, we will be able to grow our tournament bigger,” Marlow said.
NOTES: Kalispell won the bid for the 2019 State Showcase Tournament June 15-16. This event is for boys and girls teams U9-U12. “We have the best referee pool in the state and field space, that’s why we get a lot of these bids for these tournaments,” Marlow said. The Montana State Cup will be in Great Falls for boys and girls U13 and older on June 8-9. Kalispell hosted the State Cup last year.