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Mason Dixon Cup hosts 63 youth teams

June 20, 2009|By CONNER GILBERT

In the world of youth sports, athletes and their familes frequently deal with disorganized or poorly run events.

But as 63 youth soccer teams converged on the Hagerstown Soccer Club on Saturday for the Mason Dixon Cup, tournament organizer Mike Libber can proudly say that his event is different.

"I've been to many soccer tournaments, and some weren't run well," said Libber. "If you don't like it, you can either put up or shut up."

So Libber decided to take action, creating his own company in 2000, Elite Tournaments, which specializes in organizing and running youth soccer tournaments.

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Elite Tournaments, based in Mount Airy, Md., currently runs 14 tournaments throughout the year, including a 500-team annual event in Columbia, Md.

The Mason Dixon Cup offers teams along the East Coast the opportunity to play unfamiliar opponents. Libber coordinated the participation of boys and girls teams from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, New York and Delaware.

The boys and girls teams were grouped by age, from under-9 to under-19.

With so many teams from a variety of locations coming to one tournament, Libber knows that focusing on the little things can make all the difference.

"Over the years, I've built relationships with coaches," said Libber. "You need to be organized and communicate with the teams as much as possible."

Elite Tournaments attracts teams to participate in events by Internet advertising, as well as by word of mouth.

"The spirit of competition brings all these different teams out," said Libber. "Everybody wants to compete."

Libber is no stranger to competition in soccer himself. Growing up in Baltimore, he was immersed in the game.

"I started playing at age 4," said Libber. "It's what you did. Everybody played soccer in the area I grew up."

He went on to play soccer at Archbishop Curley High School and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he later coached.

Libber's interest in soccer also reaches to the professional level, and he plans to attend the World Cup in South Africa next year.

Now, as an organizer for the same kinds of events he used to participate in, things have come full circle for Libber.

"All of my experiences are kind of rolled into one now," he said.

Libber has even involved his family in the business. His wife, Amanda, is the director of marketing and publications, and his brother, Matthew, is director of operations.

At the end of each tournament, there is one thing that Libber sees which makes him realize his efforts paid off.

"I enjoy seeing the kids' faces when the winners are presented their awards," Libber said. "It's like their own little World Cup."

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