Fitzgerald, who coached for several years at the University of Tampa, which is the site of Sunday's festival, passed away in early December from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident. Shortly thereafter, the Crew and RSL, which is coached by former Fitzgerald assistant John Ellinger, decided to stage an exhibition match in his honor.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Tom Fitzgerald Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund is designed to help student athletes at the University of Tampa, which Fitzgerald led to a Division II national title in 1994.
In addition to the RSL-Crew match, the festival will include a youth soccer and goalkeeper clinic, a coaching symposium, a match between two U.S. U-17 men's national team squads and an online auction.
The youth soccer clinic will kick off the festival at 11 a.m. ET. Coaches from MLS (including Ellinger and Crew coach Greg Andrulis), the U.S. national team and the University of Tampa will give pointers to kids in attendance. At 2 p.m., all coaches who have purchased tickets to Sunday's matches will be able to attend a symposium with U.S. Soccer staff coach Jay Miller and U.S. U-17 national team coach John Hackworth.
At 6 p.m., after the friendly between the U.S. U-17 blue and white squads, RSL and the Crew will take the field. When Sunday's event was first announced, the coaches of both clubs expressed their pride in being able to honor their colleague's memory.
"Tom Fitzgerald was a very dear friend of mine and to be able to participate in a soccer festival in his honor means a lot to me," Ellinger said. "Especially since (Tom's wife) Debi Fitzgerald will be there to hand out the trophy to the winner of our game against the Columbus Crew."
"The Tom Fitzgerald Soccer Festival is another way that we as a team and an organization can show our love and commitment to a man who meant so much to all of us," Andrulis said. "Tom's legacy will live on and what a great way to honor him, by having a soccer festival that combines all elements of the sport. We are proud to be able to help raise money for a scholarship fund in Tom's name that will benefit athletes at the University of Tampa."
In addition to the events on the field, an auction will be conducted online starting at noon on Sunday. Items up for bid will include memorabilia autographed by members of the Crew and RSL and numerous items personally owned by Fitzgerald. The auction, which will be hosted by eBay, will be available via RealSaltLake.com, TheCrew.com and ut.edu/sports.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.