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More Than 60 Teams, Including U.S. Under-17 MNT, to Take Part in 4th Annual Nike Friendlies in Florida From Dec. 2-5


Elite Teams to Participate in U-16, U-17 & U-18 Age Groups; Arena and Hackworth to Speak at Two-Night Coaching Symposium in Bradenton, Fla.

CHICAGO (November 17, 2004) – More than 60 teams are scheduled to play more than 100 games across four days at the 2004 Nike Friendlies from Dec. 2-5 in Bradenton, Fla. Elite club teams from 17 states and two countries will participate in this year’s fourth annual event, including teams from the USA’s 40-player Under-17 Residency Program, the Australian Under-17 Men’s National Team and the U.S. U-15 Boy’s National Team.

U.S. Soccer’s Nike Friendlies is an annual competition in which the best youth soccer clubs around the United States in the U-16, U-17 and U-18 age divisions are invited to the IMG Academy in Bradenton for a high-level four-day event which stresses quality soccer and player development over wins and losses. Standings are not kept during the competition, in which each team plays four 80-minute games over the four days.

“For players wanting to be seen competing at an elite level, the Nike Friendlies is the most beneficial youth soccer event in the country,” said U-17 Men’s National Team Head Coach John Hackworth. “The tournament allows for optimal player development against high-quality competition. The Nike Friendlies has grown every year because the buzz from teams leaving the event is focused on the fact that you cannot get this type of competition anywhere else. And the 2004 event is stepping it up to yet another level.”

With 67 teams participating, the competition has more than tripled in size since 19 teams competed in the inaugural Nike Friendlies in 2001. The event has become highly anticipated by clubs and college coaches because of the emphasis on quality soccer and the top-level competition.

Australia’s U-17 Men’s National Team’s participation marks the third consecutive appearance by an Under-17 international team at the Nike Friendlies, after Brazil competed in 2003 and Finland in 2002.

U.S. Soccer will host a Coaching Symposium and a Premier Referee Academy as part of the Nike Friendlies extended weekend. The Coaching Symposium will last two days starting Dec. 3 and features sessions led by U-17 Men’s National Team Coach John Hackworth, U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena, U.S. Soccer’s Director of Advanced & International Referee Development Esse Baharmast and U.S. Men’s National Team Strength and Conditioning Coach Pierre Barrieu. More information about the symposium is available at ussoccer.com.

With the increase in the number of teams, U.S. Soccer’s Premier Referee Academy at the Nike Friendlies has also expanded to 32 referees, up from 15 in 2003. The Academy is a chance for referees to be evaluated while learning what it takes to advance and work at the game’s highest levels. A select number of referees will be chosen to work the MLS Combine and, from there, individual officials may be invited to join U.S. Soccer’s referee pool for the professional level.

Two U.S. U-17 Men’s National Teams will represent the United States as the 40 players from the residency program will continue to be split into teams. Traditionally, the teams have been divided by age according to the birth year of a majority of the players from the senior and junior class in the residency program. The U.S. Under-17 ‘88 Men’s National Team recently recorded a 3-1 win over Canada’s U-17 Men’s National Team in October in Sunrise, Florida.

In 2004, Eddie Gaven, Ed Johnson and Oguchi Onyewu all earned their first cap, joining Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey as U-17 Residency Program graduates who have moved on to play for the full U.S. Men’s National Team. The current group of U-17 athletes is focused on qualifying for the 2005 U-17 World Championship, which will be held in Peru in September 2005.

- List of Teams and Friendlies Facts -
 
U.S. Soccer’s Nike Friendlies 2004 Fact Sheet
IMG Academy – Bradenton, Fla. – Dec. 2-5, 2004

What: U.S. Soccer’s Nike Friendlies is an annual competition in which the best youth soccer clubs around the United States are invited to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. for a high-level tournament which stresses quality soccer and player development over wins and losses. Standings are not kept and each team plays four 80-minute games over the four days.

Where: The IMG Academy is a 190-acre campus in Bradenton, Fla., located 45 miles south of Tampa and 15 miles north of Sarasota on Florida’s west coast. There are seven fields that will be used for the games.

Who: 67 teams from some of the top clubs around the country, including youth national teams from the U.S. and Australia.

Participating Teams

Coaches: A free, two-day Coaching Symposium will be held as a part of this event. The symposium is open to all coaches. Presenters include U.S. Soccer Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth,  U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bruce Arena, U.S. Soccer’s Director of Advanced & International Referee Development Esse Baharmast, as well as U.S. Men’s National Team Strength and Conditioning Coach Pierre Barrieu. Coaches can register on ussoccer.com.

Referees: U.S. Soccer also conducts a Premier Referee Academy at the Nike Friendlies, inviting 32 of the nation’s most promising referees to officiate some of the country’s most promising players. The Premier Referee Academy is a chance for referees to be evaluated and to learn what it takes to advance and to work at the game’s highest levels.  A select number of the referees who worked at the Nike Friendlies will be asked to work the MLS Combine and, from there, individual officials may be invited to join U.S. Soccer’s referee pool for the professional level.

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