CHICAGO (November 1, 2006) – The 2006 Nike Friendlies will take place from Dec. 7-10 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., with more than 50 teams competing across the Under-16, Under-17 and Under-18 age groups. Elite clubs from 19 states will partake in the sixth annual event, along with two teams from U.S. Under-15 Boys’ National Team and two teams from the USA’s 40-player Under-17 Residency Program.
U.S. Soccer’s Nike Friendlies is an annual competition in which the best youth soccer clubs around the United States are invited to play high-level games that stress quality soccer and player development over wins and losses. Tournament standings are not kept during the competition, in which each team plays three 80-minute games over the four days. A full list of teams is available now at ussoccer.com, and a full schedule for the event will be posted at a later time. Club teams will play games on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with Saturday reserved for marquee matches involving the U.S. Youth National Teams.
With 53 teams scheduled to participate in more than 85 matches, the competition has improved every year 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.
“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 Nike Friendlies has become one of the premier events in the country as it allows for optimal player development against high-quality competition. The advantages the players have taken away from this event over the past five years are tremendous and we are expecting the same will be true this year.”
During the tournament, ussoccer.com will provide comprehensive coverage of the event including mini-match reports from every game played, photos and video. U.S. Soccer’s all_access video team, as well as Studio 90, the web show made popular during the 2006 World Cup, will be on site providing daily features and highlights.
The U.S. Under-17 and Under-15 Men’s National Teams will each be divided into two squads that will represent U.S. Soccer. The U-17 teams will be divided in to the U-17 ’90 MNT and the U-17 ’91 MNT, while the U-15 team will be made of primarily players born in 1992 and will play as the U-15 Blue and U-15 White teams. The Under-17 MNT is less than one year away from the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea, and will begin qualifying for the event in April of 2007.
U.S. Soccer will once again host a coaching symposium and a Premier Referee Academy as part of the Nike Friendlies extended weekend. The Coaching Symposium will be held Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon and features sessions led by Hackworth, U.S. Under-18 MNT Head Coach and Director of Education & Youth Development Bob Jenkins, 2006 U.S. Men's National Team World Cup assistant coach Curt Onalfo and Major League Soccer Director of Player Development Alfonso Mondelo.
U.S. Soccer’s Referee Academy is a chance for 25 national level referees to be evaluated while learning what it takes to advance and work at the game’s highest levels. In conjunction, there will also be an Assessor Academy in which six coach/mentors on hand that will work directly with six Assessor Academy students. The U.S. Soccer Referee Department staff will be on hand to train and evaluate the referees and national assessors, as well as four Canadian assessors who will be preparing for MLS expansion to Toronto in 2007. A select number of referees attending the academy may 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.