by Josh Carpenter

MOORESVILLE – The Lake Norman Soccer Club expects more participation than ever for its 2011 Fall Classic.

The tournament, now in its 26th year, will lure 220 teams from more than five states, including the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia on Nov. 19 and 20.

Philip Poole, executive director for the Lake Norman Soccer Club, projects between 5,000 and 7,000 additional people will come through Mooresville the weekend of the tournament.

“In the big scheme of things, it increases our economic impact in this community tenfold,” Poole said. “Whether it be hotel dollars, gas, food or whatever, we’ll have more people in town.”

So what’s the difference between 2011 and the previous 25 tournaments? Mazeppa Road Park.

In previous years, the tournament was played at multiple sites, including Mecklenburg County and Statesville.

Having a new six-field complex in Mazeppa, Poole said he’s whittled the number of tournament sites down to two. Games also will be played at the Statesville Soccer Complex.

“Some of these tournaments, you got to have 15 different sites to play at,” Poole said. “It takes all of the tournament experience away from it. You want to be able to hear cheers going on around you and be able to keep track of the other games going on.”

From a soccer standpoint, Poole said the new park will give the Lake Norman Soccer Club more clout and marketability during tournament week. The Fall Classic will host U9-U18 boys and girl of all skill levels.

Along with his six full-time staff members, Poole has about 40 volunteers lined up to help run the event.

“Any organization must have a headquarters to feel at home,” Poole said. “If you’re kind of a nomad and just have two soccer goals and some grass, you can’t get that club feel. It will help at tournament time, but it also just improves everything we do.”

Ron Johnson, executive director for the Mooresville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that although most games were played outside of Mooresville in years past, he’s still seen a significant spike in hotel room nights during the Fall Classic.

More than 819 room nights were booked for 2010. Johnson expects many more this year.