Three years ago, Bill Hempen saw his dream become a reality when the inaugural Colorado Cup was played.

It could have been a very short-lived dream, but thanks to many of Hempen's colleagues, the Colorado Cup has survived.

This season, the fourth annual Colorado Cup, pitting the state's Division I women's soccer programs against each other, will be contested, and it's bigger than ever. Hempen's Colorado State Rams will visit the Colorado Buffaloes to start the Cup on Friday at 4 p.m.

"I'm just so excited that the event lived on; it could have died," Hempen said.

Hempen designed the Colorado Cup in 2011, when he was the head coach at Colorado.

Prior to this year, the Cup featured the teams at CU, Denver, Colorado College and Northern Colorado. This year, CSU and Air Force have been added to the event.

Originally, the Cup was designed to give the teams an annual trophy - and bragging rights - for which to compete. The first Cup event took place early in the 2011 season.

Then, just a few months after Hempen's dream came to fruition, he was let go as CU's head coach.

His replacement, current CU coach Danny Sanchez, has worked diligently to keep the Cup going. DU's Jeff Hooker, CC's Geoff Bennett and UNC's Tim Barrera were just as involved in keeping the Cup alive.

Now that CSU and Air Force, led by coach Larry Friend, are a part of the mix, the future looks bright for the Cup, and excitement is building.

"If it's not all the teams in Colorado, there can't be a true Colorado Cup champion," Sanchez said.


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There are challenges involved with having a six-team event, especially with three of them in the same conference. CC, CSU and Air Force are all in the Mountain West. That creates some challenges with scheduling.

Nevertheless, the event is set to get into full swing this weekend (an exhibition game between Air Force and Denver, won by DU, officially kicked off the Cup on Aug. 10).

"It's taken a lot of concessions and a lot of communication between the coaches," Sanchez said. "There had to be a lot of collaboration to get to this point."

Because of scheduling complications, teams will not play everyone else. Some teams will play three games, others four. A points system will be used to determine the winner. Sanchez said that the plan is for local rivalries to always be played. Those rivalries pit CC vs. Air Force, UNC vs. CSU and CU vs. Denver.

Youth soccer is a big deal in Colorado, and all the D-I teams in the area recruit in-state players. This year, there are 49 in-state players among the six teams involved. Because of that, coaches are hoping to eventually create a festival-like atmosphere to capitalize on the interest in the sport. To do that, there is a plan for CU's Prentup Field to host a tripleheader, with all six teams involved, next year.

"With the cooperation of all the six coaches involved in it, we can finally make it what we wanted it to be," Hempen said. "We all have this vision. I go back to Opening Day for baseball and what a festival that is. We want to keep it as doable, in a smaller venue that can kind of take hold of it and really run with it as far as making it a festival, or a celebration for the game."

Eventually, the Colorado Cup might get to that point. For now, though, Hempen is just happy to be involved again.

Past Colorado Cup winners:
2011 - Colorado
2012 - Colorado
2013 - Denver

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.