OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Overland Park, Kan., is a hotbed for youth soccer, and this weekend the city is hosting the largest youth soccer tournament is the city's history.
Youth soccer is the largest sport in the U.S., and Overland Park has been declared the No. 1 soccer city in the country by one website. About three years ago the city built a large soccer complex at 135th and Switzer. It has 12 lighted artificial turf fields, but demand is so high, tournament organizers have had to turn away hundreds of teams because they don't have the space.
"We need more fields," said Shane Hackett, Heartland Soccer. "This entire year we've sold out every single tournament. We had a couple of tournaments where we sold out and we had to turn away more than 250 teams who wanted to play."
Still, youth soccer is bringing a lot of money to Overland Park. Area hotels are sold out this weekend, and the economic impact of this one tournament is expected to be more than $900,000.
"We're a microcosm of what we're seeing across the country," said Hackett. "We're seeing a lot of growth, but we have leaders who have invested in phenomenal complexes like the Overland Park soccer complex. I don't know if people know this, but this is a world-class facility that is often recognized as the largest soccer complex in the world and that's why so many teams are coming in to play."
There will be more than 5,000 kids playing soccer in Overland Park this weekend.
The games began at 7 a.m. Friday, and they will play until 11 p.m. each night all weekend long.
The games are free and open to the public.