LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Hundreds of families and youth soccer players came out to the Premier Sports Campus on Saturday for the first of three days of competition among the nearly 300 teams from around the state and beyond.
The second annual 2013 Labor Day Showcase featured players ages 10 through 18. The competition is scheduled to continue 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to about noon Monday.
Jeff Fitzherbert and his family came to the event from West Palm Beach to cheer on his 9-year-old daughter, Payton.
"It's great for the kids to get out here and compete," Fitzherbert said. "It's also fun to watch."
Fitzherbert was rooting for a victory to keep his daughter's team in the competition through Monday. Sightseeing had not yet been a possibility.
"It's been all soccer today," Fitzherbert said.
The Chargers Soccer Club is hosting the weekend-long event. Teams from Manatee and Sarasota counties were among the competition.
Lisa Eckel was watching her 10-year-old daughter, Courtney, play.
"They are doing good," Eckel said. "She loves it, we were out here last year."
Eckel is making the drive back and forth from Tampa all weekend, but she said she was still enjoying her time in Lakewood Ranch.
"The complex is nice and very well organized," Eckel said. "There is a lot of nice restaurants nearby like The Ranch Grill, it was great."
Parking and traffic were
also very well organized, Eckel said. Parking and spectating is free all weekend long.
Gabriel Huerta made the eight-hour journey from Destin with his wife, son and daughter-in-law to watch his grandson compete in the weekend's tournament.
"It's nice but a little hot," Huerta said in Spanish. "It's pretty here though."
Huerta and his wife said they hadn't been able to explore the area yet after arriving Friday night and coming straight to the competition the following the morning.
"We're looking forward to going out to eat and driving around town to get the know the area," Huerta said.
Many soccer fans were gathered under a tent to watch professional soccer games on a Jumbotron. Vendors were also present, selling food and drinks as well as soccer gear.
Christina Alzate and her husband were enjoying a break from the heat and watching UEFA Europa League soccer in between their son's games.
"This is our second time here," Alzate said in Spanish. "It's much better organized than last time."
The couple were making the commute all weekend from their home in Wesley Chapel for their 12-year-old son to compete.
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.