While the best players in the world are battling on the pitch in Russia, kids aged 9 to 18 and their families took over Kingston’s soccer fields this weekend. Kingston United Soccer Club’s First Capital tournament is in its third year and played host to 116 teams. The event brings in thousands of people who spend their money at local hotels and restaurants.
The First Capital Tournament started small — in the first year there were only 30 teams. In its second year, the number of teams tripled, and this year, even more growth has been seen.
The tournament has expanded the sport in Kingston and allows local teams to compete against others from across the province at home, in front of their families. There are even some teams from across the border kicking it in the Limestone City.
“We’re talking probably a few thousand visitors to Kingston this weekend, and of course the economic spin-off will be pretty significant,” said Timothy Scott president of Kingston United Soccer Club.
But Kingston and players from the city aren’t the only ones benefiting from the weekend.
One coach came to Kingston with his team from Cornwall and said, “I think it’s good; it brings people in. I think it’s also good that it’s open to people outside the area. This is outside of where we normally play.”
More teams mean more fields, with John Machin Soccer Park, McCullough Park and Woodbine Park all in use this year. Scott says that as the tournament grows, they started having to go other places in the city.
“It just becomes a little bit more complex, logistically, but we certainly have room to grow and we hope to next year,” Scott said.
As the tournament grows in size, its reputation spreads, enticing teams from cities farther away to look into Kingston as a place to play.
“When things run smooth and there’s access to facilities and amenities and parking, it makes the experience a much better thing for the teams and all the teams in general,” said a coach from Clarington.
Although there are many costs involved in hosting the tournament, the weekend does help to fund soccer programs in the city.
He goes on to say that without the help of more than a hundred volunteers, the tournament would be impossible.