The Soccer Tournament, the 7-on-7, $1 million, winner-take-all event that debuted in the summer, announced it will return this year and include an eight-team women's field that will also have a million-dollar prize.
In June, former United States women's national team star Heather O'Reilly entered an all-women team in the tournament, which was otherwise made up almost exclusively of men, and though the team went winless, it drew significant support.
"We were blown away last year [summer 2023] by the reception that Heather O'Reilly's U.S. Women team got down in North Carolina," Jon Mugar, the founder and CEO of The Tournaments, told ESPN.
"There were a lot of people there cheering them on specifically and getting to know Heather throughout the process, we quickly got to talking about, 'Hey, what would this look like if we were to break out a women's bracket with a separate and equal million-dollar prize?'"
The possibility was music to O'Reilly's ears. Even if there had not been the addition of a women's bracket, there was already unanimity within the players on her team that they still would have wanted to come back to compete against the men.
But the addition of a women's bracket with a separate $1 million prize changes the stakes significantly.
O'Reilly's team -- which this year played with the name U.S. Women, featured multiple former national team players and was coached by Mia Hamm -- will go for the prize.
"I'm thrilled to take part again in it this year and I think it's a huge statement that TST and the organizers have committed to equal prize money," O'Reilly said.
"The statement that it makes and the feeling around equality, I think is super special."
With an eight-team field -- as opposed to an expanded 48-team field for the men -- also means the chances for each women's team to win money are, relatively, much better.
"I'm a competitor and I like our chances," O'Reilly said. "I'm definitely going to be calling a lot of the household names that everybody can imagine that just retired, like Ali Krieger, Julie Ertz, Carli Lloyd. I can promise that we'll get some big names there. We're four hours away from a million-dollar prize."
Considering the stakes, O'Reilly said she wouldn't be surprised if the women's tournament draws interest from active professional players.
The tournament will return to Cary, North Carolina, and take place June 5-10.
The men's and women's championship game will both be on the final day with a television partner still to be determined.
This year, more than 35,000 fans attended the event, which had a festival-like feel over four days.
Tournament organizers, who also run The Basketball Tournament, have fielded significant interest from clubs all over the world and expect the level of play to rise as teams understand the style of play on a more compact field with hockey-style substitutions and a scoring format -- target score time -- that requires every game to finish on a goal.
After two 20-minute halves are played, an untimed period begins to determine a winner by reaching a target score, which will be one goal more than whatever the team with the lead had at the end of regulation.
This year, a team made up primarily of professional indoor players -- Newtown Pride FC -- won the tournament on a goal from Kelvin Nunes, who joined the team from Brazil. They donated a portion of their prize money to the Newtown Community Center last month. The field also had representatives from clubs that included Borussia Dortmund, Wrexham AFC, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, among others.