By: Sam Knehans, Communications and Sports Information Intern
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has announced that the 2014 and 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships will be hosted by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission in conjunction with Northwood University (Fla.). The sixteen-team championship will be played at Hilltopper Stadium and the adjoining Seacrest Soccer Complex in Delray Beach, Fla., on December 1-6, 2014, with the 2015 championship taking place November 30-December 5.
“We are thrilled to have our Men’s Soccer National Championship return to Florida,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “We are confident that the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and Northwood University will go the extra mile in making the National Championship an outstanding experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
The state of Florida has welcomed the men’s soccer national championship on five prior occasions, most recently in 2005 and 2006 in Daytona Beach. The championship has since been held in Olathe, Kan. (2007), Fresno, Calif. (2008-09), Orange Beach, Ala. (2010-11) and Montgomery, Ala. (2012-13).
“Very few communities have the privilege of hosting a collegiate national championship. We are excited and honored to learn the NAIA has selected Palm Beach County as the home for the 2014 & 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships,” said George Linley, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
“Hosting an NAIA National Championship elevates Palm Beach County’s stature as an elite sports destination. We are grateful to have an incredible host partner in Northwood University, an NAIA member and one of the leading universities in south Florida,” Linley said. “Together with the NAIA, we are looking forward to bringing the pinnacle of collegiate soccer to Palm Beach County. Our venue, Hilltopper Stadium and the Seacrest Soccer Complex, has been home to many premier sporting events in the past, including national soccer tournaments and collegiate showcases.”
Hilltopper Stadium and the Seacrest Soccer Complex, which are owned by the City of Delray Beach, have hosted numerous athletic events in a variety of sports including: soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby and flag and tackle football. The complex has also served as the venue for major collegiate sporting events—most recently in March of 2012, when Hilltopper Stadium hosted an NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse showdown between perennial contenders Yale and Notre Dame.
Northwood University is an NAIA school, located in West Palm Beach, Fla., that competes in The Sun Conference. The school currently sponsors 18 varsity athletic programs, including men’s soccer.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission is a private, not-for-profit organization contracted by Palm Beach County to promote and market the County as a sports and sports tourism destination. The sports commission maintains a staff of eight full-time professionals, who are overseen by a Board of Directors made up of Palm Beach County community leaders, many of whom are involved in the sports industry.
“In addition to hosting some of the most accomplished student athletes in the United States, we are also looking forward to the positive economic benefits the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship brings to a destination,” Linley said. “This National Championship will attract thousands of visitors from across the nation, which will generate a significant level of visitor spending and fill hotel rooms throughout Palm Beach County.”
Since its inception in 1991, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission has attracted nearly four million visitors to the County and has created an estimated economic impact of $780 million.
The NAIA has sponsored men’s soccer since 1959, when its inaugural championship in the sport was held in Slippery Rock, Pa. Martin Methodist (Tenn.) won the 2013 National Championship, with a 2-1 overtime victory over Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) in Montgomery, Ala. Currently, 198 institutions sponsor the sport of men’s soccer. For a complete list of participating schools, click here.
Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall educational experience. In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character-building aspects of sport. Through the Champions of Character program, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.