CHICAGO (Friday, July 26, 2002) - Two U.S. Youth National Soccer Teams - the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team and Under-16 Girls' National Team - will be heading to Houston, Texas, this weekend to compete in the seventh annual U.S. Amateur Soccer Festival at two venues (Robertson Stadium and Lewis Stadium) on the campus of the University of Houston. The 2002 edition of the festival will feature eight men's teams and six women's teams, including two youth teams from Mexico and one from Canada.
The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team will be joined in Group A by Canada’s U-20 National Team, the USASA East Region Team and the USASA South Region Team. The Men’s Group B bracket is comprised of Mexico’s Under-20 Men’s National Team, USASA Midwest Regional Team, USASA West Regional Team and the Texas-South State Select Team.
The U.S. Under-16 Girls’ National Team is placed in Group B with the USASA Midwest and USASA West Regional Teams. The Mexico U-19 Women's National Team will join the USASA South Regional Team and USASA East Regional Team in the Women's Group A.
The U.S. U-20 squad, led by head coach Thomas Rongen, will use the 2002 U.S. Amateur Soccer Festival as preparation for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament later this fall in an attempt to advance to the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2003 in the United Arab Emirates. The Americans have qualified for 11 FIFA tournaments since the first event in Australia 1981, including the last three competitions (Malaysia 1997, Nigeria 1999, Argentina 2001).
The U.S. U-16s have won their last four games, including a 3-0 blanking of Canada in March and a 3-1 road win against France last month. Steve Swanson's team has a 4-2-1 overall ledger in 2002, while outscoring their opponents 16-7. Swanson’s team will include seven players that played in last year’s festival, in which the U-16’s posted a 2-0-2 mark.
This year's U.S. Soccer Festival follows the successful 2001 Amateur Soccer Festival that was held in Chicago. The first Amateur Soccer Festival was held in San Antonio in 1996, and previous Amateur Soccer Festivals have also been held in Rhode Island (2000), Portland (1999), Manchester, N.H. (1998), 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 the 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 fourth consecutive year, and international teams.