Look out, here they come!
More than 3,000 kids armed with soccer balls and spirit will descend on the Midlands this weekend for the 14th annual St. Patrick’s Day Cup.
The youngsters, ages 14 and younger, represent 281 teams from six states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. Many will arrive tonight for two days of competition, Saturday and Sunday.
They will be kicking for the goals at six different venues, from the Polo Road complex in Northeast Richland to the BB&T complex in Ballentine. You also can find them at Crooked Creek on Old Lexington Road in Chapin, the practice fields at Irmo High School on St. Andrews Road, the Northwest YMCA on Kennerly Road and the Midlands Orthopaedic Fields on Sparkleberry Lane.
“The cool thing is we are playing all over the area,” said tournament director Tammie Epps.
Tripp Miller, executive director of South Carolina United, said the tournament provides a financial boost to restaurants and other businesses that will host the players and their families. Miller said the soccer organization has run economic models through the years trying to predict how much the tournament generates for the region.
“I think it’s safe to say it’s at least $250,000 or more,” Miller said.
Besides promoting the sport of soccer, the goal of the St. Patrick’s Day Cup “is honestly to introduce people to what Columbia has to offer,” Miller said.
Apparently, the Midlands’ reputation for hospitality has spread, since the number of teams that have signed up to play the Cup increased by more than 50 this year.