The Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch has become a fixture on the United States’ youth friendly circuit with its annual Nike Friendlies for the United States men’s national under-17 soccer team and stray events like this weekend’s World Cup tune-up for the United States women’s national under-17 soccer team.
Now, these games have a proper home. On Friday the Premier Sports Campus (PSC) will officially open its new, 3,500-seat stadium when the women’s United States U-17 team faces Venezuela at 7 p.m.
“Before we had to bring grandstands,” PSC director Antonio Saviano said. “We had to basically build the stadium around our main field.”
Aside from this obvious fix, the construction of a new stadium should lead to an increase in tournaments and friendlies in Manatee County. A press box overlooking the field makes it easier for organizers to live stream events, an increasing requirement in the age of Facebook Live and Periscope. With 22 other FIFA regulation fields, Premier Sports will still remain a venue for large-scale youth tournaments with a larger venue for championship events.
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Later during the weekend, the Premier Sports Campus will host the Tampa Bay Labor Day Showcase from Saturday through Monday. The older divisions, Saviano said, will play some of their games in the new PSC stadium.
Some of those games are going to be played in the stadium. The older teams will play in the stadium.
Antonio Saviano, director of the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch
The men’s United States U-17 team will also get its first crack at the new stadium this weekend when it faces the Chargers Soccer Club U-18 team Saturday at 7 p.m. Chargers SC, which also plays games in Tampa and Clearwater, will be frequent tenants of the new stadium.
Admission to both the men’s and women’s friendlies is free.
Premier Sports broke ground on its new stadium in December and will now be ready for the Nike Friendlies this December. The U.S. U-17 will be the headliner of the event with three other to-be-named international opponents playing a series of three doubleheaders.
With the new stadium, though, Premier Sports Campus hopes it won’t be the only headline-worthy event on the facility’s yearly calendar.
“Having the stadium now is going to help us to attract, not per se more events, but I think particular events,” Saviano said. “There are some events that require you to have a stadium, a press box, so they can stream games live and we have now the capability to do that, so I think it’s going to help us in the future to attract different events.”
Manatee Mustangs sweep on opening weekend
Pop Warner Little Scholars football season opened Saturday amid rain and the Manatee Mustangs were the big winners among Manatee County programs. The Mustangs won all three games they played against the Wesley Chapel Cowboys in the mighty mites, junior pee wee and pee wee divisions, including a pair of shutouts by the junior pee wee and pee wee teams at Mustang Field.
The only matchup between two county teams was at Buffalo Creek Park, where the North Manatee Storm and Palmetto Trojans met in the mighty mites and junior pee wee divisions. The two mighty mites teams tied and the Trojans shut out the Storm in junior pee wee. North Manatee’s junior varsity team was also shut out by the Tampa PAL Junior Buccaneers.
The Manatee Wildcats opened their season against the Valrico Rams at Valrico Park and the mighty mites team scored a 30-0 win. The Wildcats’ junior pee wee and pee wee teams, however, both fell to the Rams.
The East Manatee Bulldogs’ season opened with a thud and three shutout losses to the Silver Raiders in the mighty mites, junior pee wee and pee wee divisions at JC Turner Field in St. Petersburg.
The junior varsity season-openers for the Wildcats, Bulldogs and Mustangs were all canceled due to rain.