In a little less than a month, thousands will descend on North Reading for an event about which many might not be aware. The North Reading Youth Soccer Association (NRYSA) will host the 21st annual Fall Kickoff Classic, a tournament that features close to 100 soccer teams getting ready for the season and battling for the Classic Championship.
The Classic is the pride and joy of NRYSA and for the past 20 years it has been delivering high-quality soccer to our town. From the non-results oriented U10 games to the championship-driven U12 and U14 matches, the action begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 3 and does not stop until mid-afternoon on Labor Day. In this short time span, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 soccer matches will be played.
Maguire Field at the Chestnut Street complex serves as the “headquarters” for the tournament, but at least 5 fields will see action at Ipswich River Park, while the high school fields are also part of the mix. Teams from all over New England participate in the Classic, which last year saw clubs from Maine and New Hampshire join dozens of teams from Massachusetts.
The Classic is truly a labor of love for the NRYSA board of directors and the army of volunteers who make it go. From soliciting area businesses for sponsorships to preparing the fields to recruiting teams from surrounding towns to making sure scores are accurate for every game to designing the souvenir tee shirts to making the pizza from scratch, nothing is missed. And as for that pizza, it is almost as famous as the tournament itself. The first thing returning coaches, parents and players head for is the concessions stand to get their fresh, homemade pizza.
Many Classic volunteers have been a part of the tournament for 10 years or more, giving up their Labor Day weekend to make sure each year is better than the previous one. We all take pride in the tournament and the positive light it casts on North Reading. And, while many would like to finally break away and actually relax over Labor Day weekend, most are lured back every year by the energy and excitement of The Classic. It’s kind of like the “Hotel California,” where “you can check out any time you’d like, but you can never leave.”
After twenty years, close to 20,000 players, thousands of games, hundreds of soccer balls, and who knows how many slices of pizza sold, the Classic continues going strong. Stop by on Labor Day weekend to see some great soccer, talk with friends and enjoy the best pizza around.