About 1,800 soccer players and 3,400 spectators are expected to attend The Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Cup soccer tournament April 24-26 at Lake Country Soccer in Springfield.

The tournament will have 126 teams competing from Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Illinois with teams ranging in age from girls under 9 through under 14 and boys under 9 through under 18.

That’s good news for Curtis Bartell, owner of Orange Leaf, and other business owners in the city that cater to kids.

“It’s pretty obvious when they come in in their uniforms; that’s a dead giveaway,” Bartell said, laughing. “We’ve always been involved with the Lake Country teams and the city teams because the kids love to come in and they typically will come in as a group. Throughout the season, it’s amazing after the games, after practice. It’s a good alternative to other treats and it’s a nice cool down for them.”

While the kids enjoy the treats, business owners enjoy the cash flowing in. People attending tournaments and other group events boost the economy because those visitors spend money at hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail shops. The Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates the tournament will generate about 1,000 room nights at the city’s hotels.

Robert Henley, general manager at the University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center where several teams are staying, said youth sports are a big part of business.

“Soccer tournaments are a very important part of our spring and summer group business,” Henley said. “They overnight multiple nights in our lodging facilities, eat in our restaurants, and utilize local services such as gas stations and grocery stores.  The financial impact to our city is very important and we welcome these visitors and hope that Springfield provides a great overall experience.”

Along with being good for the economy, the soccer tournament also provides opportunities for sports fans who enjoy watching the games. They will take place from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. April 25 and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 26 at the South Fields, North Fields and Cooper Complex. Admission is free for spectators.

This one of three large tournaments hosted by Lake Country Soccer each year. The facility also hosts the Champions Challenge Cup in March and the Fall Classic in October.

Lake Country Soccer is the largest soccer facility in southwest Missouri, boasting more than 55 acres with 20 outdoor fields (seven are lighted) and two indoor fields. Lake Country has a youth fall and spring outdoor season and an indoor season in November and January for youth.  Lake Country also hosts adult indoor sessions throughout the year and an adult outdoor summer session.

For more information, call Lake Country Soccer at 417-862-3211 and visit www.lakecountrysoccer.org.

For information about how group events boost the local economy, call the Convention & Visitors Bureau and Springfield Sports Commission at 417-881-5300 or visit www.SpringfieldMO.org and www.SpringfieldMoSports.org. The nonprofit organizations work hand-in-hand to have a positive impact on the local economy through growth in travel and tourism to the city.