CHICAGO (Tuesday, July 23, 2002) — The 2002 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships kick off tomorrow at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md., located about 30 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. The annual event features the best 48 competitive boys and girls club teams in the Under-14 through Under-19 age groups who have advanced through a year-tournament at the State Association and Regional levels.
The national championships cap U.S. Youth Soccer's year-long tournament, which features competition for boys and girls teams in age groups ranging from Under-14 through Under-19. It begins with teams in all 55 state associations vying for the U.S. Youth Soccer State Championship titles. State Cup champions in most age groups are eligible to compete in one of four U.S. Youth Soccer Regional Championships, and regional champions in the qualifying age groups advance to The U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
For the 2002 competition, the 12 age groups each will have four teams (each respective regional champion) playing round-robin in the first round from July 24-26. The top two teams from each group will meet in their respective age category final slated for July 28. California-South qualified the most teams with eight, followed by Illinois (six), Georgia (five), South Texas and host Maryland (four each), and Eastern New York (three). Virginia, Eastern Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri and North Texas each have two teams participating, and eight associations have one representative apiece.
Eight former national champions are in the field, including five back from last year’s finals in Lawrence, Ind. The Bethesda (Md.) Fury Under-18 girls figure to be a hometown favorite as they seek back-to-back crowns. Other returning 2001 champions are the Michigan Hawks (Livonia) U-19 girls, Texans 82/83 (Houston) U-19 boys, GSA 85 Phoenix Red (Lilburn, Ga.) U-17 girls and FC Delco Dynamo II (Downingtown, Pa.) U-16 boys. Overall, 14 teams are repeat qualifiers from the 2001 tournament.
The San Diego (Calif.) Surf U-19 girls are making their fourth consecutive appearance at the national championships, winning the U-17 title in 2000 and finishing second to the Michigan Hawks last year.
Squaring off again in the U-19 boys division are past national champions, the Stony Brook (N.Y.) Panthers and Chicago Magic SC. In 2000, the Panthers, then representing West Babylon, won the U-17 crown by defeating the Magic, which had won the U-16 title in 1999.
The teams will be playing at one of the country’s finest multi-sport venues. Opened in 2000, the Maryland SoccerPlex and Discovery Sports Center features 20 regulation-size soccer fields, including a 3,200-seat stadium, and a 65,000-square-foot indoor recreation facility that accommodates basketball, volleyball, soccer and more.
U.S. Youth Soccer is the largest member of the United States Soccer Federation, the governing body of soccer in the United States. U.S. Youth Soccer registers more than 3.1 million players ages 5-19 annually in 55 member state associations. US Youth Soccer programs provide a fun, safe and healthy environment for players at every level of the game. For more information on the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships check www.usyouthsoccer.org.