OLATHE, KS (KCTV) — One of the metro’s top spring soccer tournaments has returned to the pitch after COVID-19 called things off last year.

It was a rainy start for the Kansas City Champions Cup Friday night, but you’ll hear no complaints. It just makes things more competitive, one 15-year-old player explained. It’s anybody’s game. Oh, and it’s just so good to be back. That’s the main refrain.

“Not having it felt odd,” said Eshaan Singh, a 15-year-old from Olathe who plays for the European Soccer Institute and watched his team from the sidelines due to an injury.

Heartland Soccer this weekend is hosting more than 400 teams from 14 states at two Johnson County Sports Complexes: Scheels Overland Park Soccer Complex and Garmin Olathe Soccer Complex.

“I like tournaments because it’s a lot more games you play in,” said 15-year-old Lawrence resident Ocean Comfort, who plays for BVB International Academy – Great Plains. “KC Champions, that’s the tournament, it’s a good tournament, high level.”

“Just, like, the competitiveness, coming out and competing against other teams, and just like the intensity of the game,” said Singh, when asked about what he missed when the annual event was cancelled in 2020.

“I think this is very important,” said his dad, Sanjay Singh, about the tournament’s return. “The kids were cooped up at home, and with schools being remote, the kids needed an outlet to come out and enjoy what they love to do.”

“Soccer is pretty much everything I do in my spare time, and when I couldn’t play I was like, I guess I have nothing to do now,” said Tonganoxie 15-year-old Lachlan Bond, one of Comfort’s teammates at BVBIA.

“It just has been a year of trying to find other ways to use that energy,” said Lawrence mom Cindy Johnson.

Her son is also a track and cross-country runner, so he could stay in shape solo. But there’s also the issue of friendships the kids have formed with competitors at the tournament, which is now in its 14th year.

“Being able to be with his teammates and being able to enjoy everybody again is such a big deal,” said Johnson.

The folks with the Heartland Soccer Association say it’s also a welcome return for the businesses that benefit from all the attendees.

Visit KC estimates the economic impact of the three-day event at more than $8 million.

The tournament continues through the weekend. Heartland Soccer is the largest youth soccer league and tournament host in the United States with more than 4,000 teams and 70,000 youth players participating in league and tournaments.

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