Soccer fever remains alive and well in Northwest Missouri.
More than 50 teams — comprising about 200 youths, 80 teenagers and 80 adults — competed in the St. Joseph Youth Soccer Association’s fifth annual tournament this weekend. Games were played at the association’s soccer complex on North Riverside Road.
Board member and past president Mike Dalsing said the tournament began with high school students playing full-field soccer Friday night at Missouri Western State University.
Youths competed at the complex from St. Joseph and across the region, he said, including squads from Maryville, Savannah and Cameron. Youths as young as 4 and adults as old as 70 kicked back to relish the sport for a few days, Mr. Dalsing said.
“We’ve probably added another five or six teams,” he said. “We had some people come from all over the country.”
Competitors arrived from as far as Texas, Nebraska and Chicago.
High school seniors Erin Christiansen and Morgan Hall received the Donnie Bell Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship has been awarded for about the past decade.
Enthusiasm for the sport continues to grow, Mr. Dalsing said, especially with the youths’ exposure to the World Cup on both men’s and women’s levels.
“Everybody’s interested in it,” he said, adding that the U.S. men’s loss to Mexico drew attention. “You always hear that talk.”
About 25 volunteers helped arrange this year’s tourney. Games are run four at a time, although Saturday’s storms did force a doubling up of the schedule. Medal ceremonies were held once each age-group bracket concluded its finals.
Association president Elliott Gilmour said the fields were prepared for action on Friday, along with securing the medals, finalizing schedules and assigning referees.
A board meeting will be held in July to review the tournament, with dates for the 2012 event to be confirmed in January. Sponsors will be organized starting in March, Mr. Gilmour said, as a way to help pay for shirts the players wear in the tournament.
Several of the younger players said landing a spot on a pro soccer team is their dream. For 9½-year-old Alexis Starks, it’s all about being outside for the summer.
“I liked it when I was 4 years old,” she said. “You get to run around and have fun. You get a lot of exercise and stuff. ... I’m training to be a goalie.”
Adam Johnston, 10, simply said he likes to sweat.
“I like how it gets physical,” he said.
Williams Johnston, 8, has an eye for the finer details of the sport.
“I like how some teams pass it (the soccer ball) around a lot, and when they get an opportunity, shoot it,” he said.
The association’s website is www.sjysa.org.
Ray Scherer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.