Elias Garcia was never a soccer player.
"I'm a ball hog," Garcia said. "I played basketball. Just give me the ball and you'd never get it back — I'd shoot it."
But Garcia recognized how popular soccer was becoming within Wichita's Hispanic residents, so in 2006 he organized the CopaKansas tournament.
CopaKansas (Kansas Cup) brings together 32 teams from across the state in a four-bracket, single-elimination tournament. It's held every two years, and on Oct. 4, the Wichita Atlas defeated Salina 2-1 in the championship game in Topeka.
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"Soccer is the No. 1 sport in the world," Garcia said. "In Kansas, in the Hispanic community, that's a reflection of what's happening in the world. Soccer is the No. 1 sport, and it's no different here.
Garcia patterned the tournament after Hispanic softball and basketball tournaments that have been held around the state for decades. The most notable is a softball tournament in Newton that is approaching its 80th year.
Because basketball is most familiar to Garcia, the tournament is organized like the NCAA basketball tournament. It's broken into regions of the state before the four semifinalists converge on one site.
About 700 players participate in CopaKansas, in which champions from 18 leagues in Kansas earn automatic berths.
The championship was the culmination of four weekends of play during Hispanic Heritage Month in Wichita, Kansas City, McPherson and Liberal.
"In the Hispanic community guys work — that's their priority and (soccer) is secondary," Garcia said. "So in the Hispanic community we typically played on Sundays. You go anywhere in the state, any city park or whatever, you're going to see members of the Hispanic community playing soccer.
"This year we changed it up, we did Saturday and Sunday to try to make it go faster."
The Atlas is a decade-old team made up of players in their late 20s and early 30s, many of whom played at North. They won the first CopaKansas in 2006.
The team was honored at halftime of the Kansas City Wizards game last weekend.
"That's really nice," Atlas coach Guillermo Munoz said. "Lately that's all we've talked about — how we're going to feel.... It's something that's real big for our soccer team."