By Steve Hubrecht 

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Time to tie up those soccer laces: the Clash of the Titans is back.

The annual event, which has been running for decades, is the biggest soccer tournament in the Columbia Valley. This year promises to be the largest version of the event yet, and will see more than 1,050 youth soccer players come to the valley, along with countless hundreds more family members, coaches, volunteers and supporters in tow.

“It does fill up all the accommodation, all the restaurants, all the shops from Radium down to Fairmont Hot Springs,” Columbia Valley Youth Soccer Association volunteer Bailey Yates told the Pioneer.

Past editions of the Titans tournament have drawn up to 60 teams. This year there’ll be more — 70 teams, coming from all across the Kootenay region, as well as from Calgary, Airdrie and other parts of Alberta.

The teams — both girls and boys — will compete in age categories ranging from U11 (under 11 years old) right up to U18 (under 18 years old), including every age category in between.

If the logistics of getting all of those 1,050 players to the right field at the right times for each of their games boggles your mind, you’re not alone.

“It is a pretty big deal to host it,” concedes Yates, adding that an untold number of volunteers, local citizens and local businesses contribute to pulling off the tournament. “It’s a true community event, it really does take a whole village to put on an event like this, and it’s all about the kids,” she said. “Many volunteers, the committee members, they all work endless hours to make it happen — scheduling, planning, sorting out the port-a-potties. It’s a lot of work, and they do it all out of the kindness of their hearts.”

There is excitement at all levels, said Yates. For some of the U11 kids, it’s their first-ever genuine soccer tournament and they are as fired up as if they were playing in the FIFA World Cup. And for some of the older U18 teens, there is more than a hint of nostalgia about participating in this iconic Columbia Valley event for the final time (before many of them leave the valley to pursue post secondary education or career opportunities).

The first game kicks off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, and the last one will wrap up by 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 26, but the influx of players, family, coaches and other visitors will probably hit the valley in waves starting early in the afternoon of Friday, May 24.

Most of the games will be played on the soccer pitches at Mount Nelson Athletic Park (MNAP), J.A. Laird Elementary School, and David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS).

Yates extended a special thank you to CV Soccer chair Joanne Gray and to tournament organizer Catrien Dainard for their efforts.