VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The world's largest beach soccer tournament is underway in Virginia Beach.
Today, hundreds of professional teams took over the oceanfront for the North American Sand Soccer Championships.
Friday was the free soccer clinic for children, and Saturday marked the official start of professional play.
Miles of sand at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront became miles of beach soccer fields.
Nearly 700 soccer teams are competing on 64 different soccer fields on the beach.
Saturday morning didn't exactly have perfect beach weather, but the rain didn't slow things down.
Lauren Bland, Executive Director of the Hampton Roads Soccer Council said as long as there isn't any lightning, the games go on as scheduled.
“We play in the rain," Bland said. “So the weather doesn’t impact us. It’s cool, our feet aren’t hot, we’re doing great. People are just excited to be out at the beach doing something. And we’re sports people, we play in the rain! We’re totally fine!”
The tournament is back after organizers had to cancel it last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It's expected to contribute more than $15 million to the local economy as players and spectators fill up hotels and eat at restaurants.
Professional player Ashley Triplett said it's great to be back.
“The fact that we can connect and play with them and cheer each other on virtually and now in person - like we all just hugged each other yesterday like, ‘It’s so good to see you in person, is this real life?’ It’s so good to play.” Triplett said.
The games started at 8 a.m. and will be continued until 8 p.m. Bland explained that, the top professional men’s and women’s beach soccer teams will compete over two days.
Everything is free and open to the public.
Saturday morning, the stands were packed with fans cheering on their favorite teams.
“It’s amazing," Bland said. "Everyone is so happy. People are hugging. This is - in the soccer community - this is our reunion weekend.”
The championships will continue Sunday with games from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.