A total of 183 teams - the second-highest total ever - are signed up to play in the 21st annual Bill Eisenwinter Hot Shot youth soccer tournament, which begins tonight and runs through Sunday on several area fields in Coeur d'Alene and Hayden.
And Coeur d'Alene Sting officials are looking forward to the year all of those teams are able to play in one location.
"That's what's exciting about the North Idaho Sports Complex," said Mike Thompson, director of coaching and player development for the Sting, which puts on the Hot Shot tourney.
Thompson said the proposed complex - featuring 16 soccer fields and a host of field space for other sports and located east of Huetter Road between Prairie and Hayden avenues in Hayden - is "gonna happen." Weather permitting, dirt could be moved as early as next week, he said.
As usual, the Hot Shot tournament is spread out, this year using 21 fields at eight different sites - Hayden Meadows Elementary, Canfield Middle School, Lake City High, Coeur d'Alene High, North Idaho College, the Coeur d'Alene Soccer Center (Skyway Elementary), the Nazarene church and Woodland Middle School.
"We're even having to use fields we haven't used before," Thompson said, referring to fields at Woodland and the field at the Nazarene church on Fourth Street near Coeur d'Alene High.
A handful of tourney games are scheduled for tonight, mostly involving area teams. Most teams begin play on Saturday. Championship games are scheduled for Sunday.
The tournament includes 23 teams from the Sting, 13 from the Post Falls-based Idaho Thunder, and six from the Lakeland Nighthawks. The rest are from elsewhere in the Inland Northwest as well as, for the first time, a handful from the Seattle area.
A few Sting teams play over there in the Puget Sound Premier League.
"Going over there and doing well debunks the myth that soccer in North Idaho isn't very good," Thompson said.
Boys and girls divisions for the Hot Shot tournament include under-10, U11, U12 (9v9), U12 (11v11), U13 (gold and silver divisions), U14 (gold and silver divisions), U15, U16 and U19.
Thompson said the Sting teams should be playing games at the North Idaho Sports Complex by next year - but probably too late to host the Hot Shot tourney there next year. He said it's possible two or three of those fields would be artificial turf.
But after that, 16 fields would be plenty to host this year's number of teams (the record is 192 teams in 2008). Using the outfield grass from other sports fields at the complex, Thompson said they could have as many as 18 fields for bigger tournaments and house 215-220 teams.
Thompson said the Sting will bid for the 2013 State Cup, even though the new complex won't be ready by then. Coeur d'Alene has hosted State Cup a few times in the past. These days, State Cup is in Boise every other year, with eastern Idaho (Idaho Falls or Pocatello) hosting it on the odd year. Last year, Twin Falls hosted it for the first time on its new 15-field Sunway Soccer Complex.
Once the North Idaho Sports Complex is built, Thompson said it's possible State Cup would be played there on a rotating basis. He said the area has enough hotel rooms to satisfy the number of teams.
"I think we'd be in the natural rotation, which is every three years," he said. "Instead of having to bid for it, it would just happen."
This year's State Cup - most of it, anyway - is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend in Boise. Since many Boise-area high schools graduate that weekend, the U18 tourneys are often held before that. This year, the U18 boys State Cup will be next weekend. The U18 girls State Cup was the last weekend in April, and the Coeur d'Alene Sting team finished second.
Hot Shot tourney schedules and other tournament information can be found at the Sting's website, www.cdasting.com.