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Philly is Titletown for NCAA sports

The Philadelphia Sports Congress has successfully bid to bring many NCAA Championship events to the region.

This weekend the four teams remaining in the NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Tournament will be at PPL Park in Chester to play in the 2013 College Cup and determine the National Champion.

On Friday, 3rd-ranked Notre Dame (15-1-6) will play New Mexico (14-5-2) at 5 p.m. and then 3-time NCAA Champion Maryland (16-3-5) will face 6-time Champion Virginia (13-5-5).

For Philadelphia, the College Cup joins Division I men's and women's lacrosse as the third NCAA sport to play its 2013 championship round in the region.

In addition, the city played host to a NCAA Men's Basketball Regional during March Madness.

On April 10-12 at the Wells Fargo Center, the men's Division I hockey championships – The Frozen Four – will debut in Philadelphia.

Five different NCAA Championship events in less than a calendar year might seem like a lot for one city/area, but it is the result of a successful strategy by the Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau to make the region a destination site for NCAA Championship events.

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced venues for many of its future championship and the Delaware Valley will be a frequent host area.

In 2015 and 2016, the men's lacrosse Final Four returns to Lincoln Financial Field and the women's Final Four will be contested at PPL Park in the same years.

The college cup will be back at PPL Park in 2017.

Since 2009, the Philadelphia area has been part of the men's basketball tournament (2009 Regional Final, 2013 sub-regional), women's basketball (2011 Regional Final), men's lacrosse (2013 Final Four), women's lacrosse (2013 Final Four), wrestling (2011 Championships) and men's soccer (2013 College Cup).

"Philadelphia and the NCAA have had a fantastic partnership over the years," Sports Congress executive director Larry Needle said, "and it's exciting to be able to now add some new and different championships into the mix.

"PPL Park is a perfect venue for the College Cup and we know the Frozen Four will have a huge following this spring."

Football and men's basketball are not the only collegiate sports that provide great opportunities for a visitor's bureau to show off its city.

"The Frozen Four, in particular, always has a very strong traveling fan base, no matter who the teams are," Needle said. "It's very similar to wrestling, which we hosted in 2011 and lacrosse. That's one of the things that make those events so attractive to us as a host city."

With state of the art soccer-specific stadiums in most Major League Soccer cities, competition for the College Cup is growing.

Adding PPL Park to the venue list is paying off for Philadelphia.

Although the sport is not governed by the NCAA, the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships have been at PPL Park for the last three years.

The College Cup matches will be in Chester but the majority of the images broadcast on ESPNU will be of the Philadelphia skyline and historical sites.

That kind of promotion is invaluable for places looking to sell itself to future tourist.

Virginia and Maryland have strong championship traditions in soccer and are driving distance to PPL Park. Notre Dame is in its first College Cup and there are a lot of Irish alumni and fans in the Northeast corridor. The players from New Mexico have parents and friends too.

If the weather cooperates, the two sessions [Championship match is at 3 p.m. on Sunday] could be near sellouts.

Combined with the sold out Army/Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, there could be 75,000 to 100,000 visitors in the area this weekend for college sports.

That's a lot of additional bonus business for area hotels and restaurants.

"PPL Park has been a real difference maker for us in terms of hosting new events that we couldn't traditionally compete for," Needle said. "The stadium is obviously a fantastic soccer venue, but it has opened the door for rugby and a number of other things.

"At the end of the day, Philadelphia's world-class venues are huge factor in the success we've realized in attracting events in recent years."