By DAVID LESNICK
The Daily Inter Lake
For the next two weekends, it will be soccer, soccer and as much soccer action as you want at Kidsports Complex from dawn to dusk.
It starts with the Three Blind Refs Tournament this weekend — Saturday and Sunday — and continues with the Montana State Cup — June 8-10.
Three Blind Refs, celebrating its 25th season this spring, has a full field of 132 teams representing three states (Montana, Idaho and Washington) and two Canadian provinces — Alberta and British Columbia — for U9 to U19 age divisions, boys and girls.
More then 100 teams, boys and girls, from around Montana will be here again for the three-day Montana State Cup, which is for U13 to U19 age divisions.
Three Blind Refs action starts 8 a.m. both days at two locations — Kidsports and Glacier High School. Championship games on Sunday are set for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Kidsports has seven full-sized soccer fields and Glacier four. The tournament splits the three Little Guy Football fields for U10 to U12 divisions.
Play for U10 is 7 on 7, U11 and U12 is 9 on 9 and U13 on up is 11 on 11.
Having tournaments in the Flathead Valley on back-to-back weekends has resulted in some state teams passing on this weekend’s event for the Montana State Cup.
“We lost a lot of our Montana teams because of that,” Three Blind Refs tournament director Jill Marlow said.
Teams from Canada and Idaho, however, gladly filled those spots.
“We get a lot of feedback that we put on a good tournament,” she said.
“Canadians always say this is their favorite tournament to go to in the states. They like the fields, just like coming to the Flathead Valley. It’s a beautiful place to come and there is a lot to do around here.”
Canada will have 45 teams on the pitch this weekend.
The Three Blind Refs topped out in 2015 with 166 teams entered. That year play was held at four different locations, including Whitefish.
Marlow said this tournament may expand when new fields — three for soccer and three or four all-sport fields — are completed at Kidsports.
“That’s another year out,” she said.
When the final game is finished on Sunday, 225 will have been played. More than 100 referees are needed to pull this event off, according to Marlow.
Three referees are needed for all matches, except U10, which just requires one. Some referees work as many as five matches a day.
Marlow said more than 100 volunteers will have things running smoothly both days.
“The majority (of volunteers) are (Flathead Soccer Club) board members,” she said.
“We ask parents of players to volunteer.”
Volunteers are needed for the concession stand, T-shirt booth, field marshals and setting up and taking down of tents.
“This is the biggest of all the state tournaments,” she said.
“And the longest running of them all.”
Marlow started planning for Three Blind Refs six months ago with logo designs and ordering T-shirts, medals and pins. Registration opens in mid-January and closes in mid-May.
“We still had teams calling as of yesterday (Tuesday) to get in,” she said. “We have no field space and the schedule is already written up.”
The Flathead Soccer Club and Flathead Rapids (Whitefish) will be well represented this weekend. Soccer Club Polson has entrants as well.
A U17 boys team — Soccer Club Missoula/Hamilton — consisting of players from Plains, Frenchtown and Hamilton, will also participate.
The Montana State Cup, which signals the end of the spring season, will feature teams from Kalispell, Whitefish, Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena and Missoula. Billings hosted the Cup last year.
“Everyone puts in a bid for it every year if you want it,” Marlow said. “Last year’s bid for it we thought we were getting it. They went with Billings and said put in for it next year.”
The Montana State Cup rotates to a different city every year. The last time Kalispell hosted the Cup was 2005.
Marlow said three Kalispell teams — Flathead Valley United 03 boys premier, FVU 04 boys premier and FVU 01 girls premier — will be competing in both tournament at Kidsports plus have qualified for the Presidents Cup in Salt Lake City, which begins June 12 and runs for five days.