Less than two months before the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team plays in its record ninth consecutive Under-17 World Championship, U.S. head coach John Ellinger will lead his troops to Chicago for a grueling five games in eight days. The U.S. team will be led by Chicago-area native and offensive standout Mike Magee, who grew up playing soccer in the Chicago Sockers club system. The U.S. is the only country to qualify for all nine FIFA Under-17 World Championships, dating back to 1985. This year, Ellinger has one of the strongest U.S. squads ever, and the Under-17s will enter the World Championship with a U.S. Soccer record 10-game international winning streak in tow.
"The U.S. Amateur Festival is a wonderful opportunity for our national teams to compete against some of the top amateur players in the country," said U.S. Soccer President S. Robert Contiguglia. "This year, fans in Chicago are fortunate to have the opportunity to watch four Youth National Teams play, including the U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team just six weeks before they head to the FIFA Under-17 World Championship."
The U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team, which recently returned from a very successful stint in Europe, will be playing four games in the tournament. U.S. head coach George Gelnovatch's team put together a very impressive 10-game run through Europe in June, finishing with a 5-1-4 record in two tournaments in Holland and Portugal. The team finished in fourth place in the Eurovoetbal Tournament in Holland, falling to Feyenoord in penalty kicks in the third-place match. The U.S. rebounded the following week to post wins against Austria and South Africa, and drew with Portugal to win the International Tournament of Lisbon.
The U.S. offense received considerable help from Chicago-area native Ned Grabavoy (New Lennox, Ill. / Chicago Magic), who scored the game-winning goal and assisted on the other in a 2-1 win against Austria in Lisbon and scored again in a title-clinching 2-2 draw with Portugal. Miguel Saavedra was selected in the sixth round of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft as a Nike-Project 40 player by the Dallas Burn, but will take the field with the Under-18s in Chicago.
The U.S. Under-16 Girl's National Team has set opponents afire in 2001, going undefeated in five games and shutting out their opponents in three matches. Steve Swanson's team recently won the Texas Shootout in Houston, Tex., playing against much older, more experienced opponents. Amy Burlingham, Cristina Estrada and Angela Woznuk lead an offense that has hammered their opponents in 2001, scoring 13 goals in five matches. Two locals will be returning to their home state for the Soccer Festival, as both midfielder Jen Buczkowski (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / Sockers FC) and goalkeeper Julie Ryder (Dekalb, Ill. / Eclipse Select) honed their skills in Illinois before Swanson called them up to the national level.
The U.S. Men's Under-17 National Team will be joined in Group A by Mexican club side UNAM Puma's Under-20 team, the USASA - South Regional Team and the USASA - Midwest Regional Team. The Men's Group B bracket is comprised of the U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team, the USASA - East Regional Team, the USASA - West Regional Team and the Illinois State Select team.
The Mexico Under-18 Women's National Team will join the USASA - South Regional Team and USASA - Midwest Regional Team in the Women's Group C. The U.S. Under-16 Women's National Team will join women's teams from the USASA - East and USASA - West Regions in Group D. On the tournament's closing day, August 5, the United States Under-19 Women's National Team will come to Chicago to close out the Soccer Festival with a match against the Mexican Under-18 side. The festival matches will take place at Trinity Christian College, Moraine Valley Community College and Chicago Christian High School.
This year's U.S. Soccer Festival follows a successful 2000 Amateur Soccer Festival that was held in Kingston, Rhode Island. The first Amateur Soccer Festival was held in San Antonio in 1996, and previous Amateur Soccer Festivals have also been held in Portland (1999), Manchester, N.H. (1998) and Blaine, Minn. (1997).
Recognizing the need to continue the development of young American players and needing a forum to identify other up-and-coming players, the United States Amateur Soccer Association has developed this event to serve those needs through its partnership with the United States Soccer Federation and a grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
The U.S. Amateur Soccer Festival was originally conceived when the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) discontinued staging their annual U.S. Sports Festival in 1995. The U.S. Amateur Soccer Festival, which is sponsored and organized by the USASA, has incorporated the concept used in the U.S. Sports Festival and has expanded it to also include several U.S. National Teams, and for the third consecutive year, international teams.