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Soccer Classic kicks off today
Kevin Miller of Billings paints numbers on a soccer field in preparation for the Magic City Classic soccer tournament which begins today.

Steve Baum doesn't mind the fact that he'll be wearing more than one hat this weekend at Amend Park. Partly because he knows he's not alone.

Baum, the tournament director for the Magic City Classic soccer tournament, will also be one of the event's 60-plus referees.

"I'll be busy," said Baum with a smile. "But so will the rest of us. Between getting the fields ready and running the tournament, it takes over 100 people to make this thing happen. We count on a lot of help, and it's all volunteer."

That workforce is necessary because this year's Classic — the 21st annual — will feature nearly 1,000 players ranging in age from 10-19 on 81 teams from six states. Boys and girls teams from Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho and Utah will join Montana teams in the tournament.

Matches will be in progress on 16 fields at the Amend Park complex all day today and Sunday morning. Championship and third-place matches will be held on 10 fields Sunday afternoon.

The Classic is the major fundraiser for the Magic City Soccer Club, which currently has 550 players ranging in age from 9-18. The Magic City program features 24 competitive teams and 16 Micro Magic developmental teams.

"Basically, the funds raised in the Classic help us keep the costs down for the players in the program," said Baum, who has been involved with the Magic City program since 2000. "The Classic has been a huge boost to the program, especially in the past six years since it's been at Amend Park.

"We had over 100 teams (in the Classic) in 2002 and we've been around the 80-90 range every other year since we moved to Amend. It's become a real regional event … this year we have teams from Minot (N.D.), Pierre (S.D.) and Layton, Utah, here for the first time."

Admission to the Classic is free. Play will begin at 8 a.m. both today and Sunday, and matches will run until around 6 p.m. today and around 3 p.m. Sunday.

NOTES: Amend Park is located in south Billings at King Avenue East and South Billings Boulevard. … Full concessions and bathroom facilities are provided at the complex. … Six of the top teams from Billings will not be competing in the Classic, as they will be en route to Boise, Idaho, for the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional tournament. The Magic City U-13 boys, U-13 girls, U-15 boys, U-17 boys and U-18 girls qualified for the regional tournament at last month's State Cup in Bozeman. Play in the regional begins Monday.