BAYSHORE GARDENS -- They came from all over the continent.
Soccer players, parents and coaches descended upon IMG Academy on Thursday to kick off the 2013 USL Super Y-League North American Finals.
One club, BW Gottschee, arrived at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday then turned around and played an 8 a.m. match Thursday.
"We wanted to get off to a good start, and we knew were playing a local team so they wouldn't have to travel as much," said BW Gottschee director and coach Paul McGlynn, whose side defeated the Orlando-based FC America 3-0 in the boys 14-and-younger division's opening match.
The New York-based club qualified from the Northeast division.
"For 13- or 14-year-old kids to come down to Florida from New York in the middle of winter to get off school, it's a huge deal," McGlynn said. "It's good for our club. This is actually our first year doing Super Y. So we've enjoyed it because you get to see all the kids in the club that you don't normally see."
Games carried into the afternoon. Teams are broken down into six age divisions (U12s-U17s) for boys and girls.
The regular season began in April and wrapped up in August, and the divisional winners meet at IMG Academy this month to determine championships in each age group.
BW Gottschee wasn't the only club to travel a great distance for this week's tournament, which concludes Monday.
Teams from Canada (Toronto and Ottawa) made the voyage as well as squads from Virginia, Tennesee, Ohio and Missouri, to name a few.
"This tournament provides these teams an opportunity to compete in a world-class venue for a prestigious title," IMG Academy soccer director Scott Dean said. "It is also an opportunity for many of them to escape the cold winter and continue training and competing in a sunny environment."
The tournament doesn't just benefit the players.
IMG sees an impact, too. The 116-team event (72 boys and 44 girls sides) showcases the academy as a viable destination for world-class events.
"By successfully hosting an event like Super Y from both an operational and marketing/PR standpoint, we are able to demonstrate to other leagues and organizations that there is no better place to bring their event than IMG Academy," Dean said. "The key to this success is that we do not do this alone. In the case of the Super Y event, for example, the Bradenton Area CVB has provided us support and resources, recognizing the impact an event like this has on the region."
In addition to raising IMG's profile, the event provides Manatee County an economic boon.
The amount can't be quantified just yet, but the volume of outsiders traveling to Bradenton for the Super Y finals will make an impact on local businesses.
"They come to compete at IMG Academy, which helps grow awareness of who we are, but they also fill the local hotels, eat in local restaurants and often extend their stay to enjoy the area beaches and other attractive destinations," Dean said.