This week, Columbus is welcoming softball fans and players from 10 states, plus Canada, for the kickoff of the USSSA National Championship.

There are 166 competing girls softball teams across seven different talent and age divisions. Columbus has eight teams competing in six different brackets.

The tournament’s format is set up a little differently than the state tournament that was hosted in Columbus last month. Each team will start the national tournament by playing two “pool play” games beginning Thursday.

The first two games will determine the seeding in the actual tournament bracket that begins immediately afterward. Teams will then move to a double-elimination bracket, with the entire tournament wrapping up on Sunday.

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This is the 10th year Columbus has hosted the national tournament, and tournament director Tim Foster said this is the most participating teams the tournament has ever seen. Foster said winning the state or another tournament qualifies teams to play in this tournament, and he is going to cut it off at 172 teams.

The tournament presents an opportunity for those looking to play at the collegiate level to showcase their talents in front of college coaches. Foster said there will be a handful of coaches in attendance looking to scout the up-and-coming talent.

“It gives them the ability to have to compete at a higher level,” Foster said. “… They know they definitely have to perform well to catch the coaches’ eye.”

Foster has been in this business for 23 years and said the city of Columbus has always been supportive of everything he’s done. His state office for the USSSA Fast Pitch is stationed in Columbus, and he praises the city for field availability.

All games will be played at five different Columbus venues plus the Edinburgh Sports Complex. The Columbus locations are Ceraland, Clifty Park, Dunn Stadium, Lincoln Park and Southside Elementary School.

“There are so many fields, and they’re so close together,” Foster said.” That helps us. It’s a huge event for everybody … There is not a single hotel that’s available. If you don’t have a hotel right now, you’re not getting one.”

If you go

What: USSSA National Championship

When: Thursday through Sunday

Where: Ceraland, Clifty Park, Dunn Stadium, Lincoln Park, Southside Elementary School, Edinburgh Sports Complex.

Participating Teams: 166 total teams including Columbus-based clubs Indiana Nitro (16-and-under); Red Alert Platinum (14-and-under B); Red Alert-Jones (14-and-under C); Southern Indiana Impact Streeval, Red Alert 04 (Smith), Demand Command 12u (12-and-under C); Southern Indiana Impact (10-and-under B); Indiana Red Alert 10u (10-and-under C).

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.