Youth soccer players shine alongside college teams
Posted December 6, 2008 10:50 a.m. EST
Updated December 6, 2008 7:03 p.m. EST
Cary, N.C. — High-school soccer's best female players are getting a chance to show off their skills this weekend – not just in a new season but also for college recruiters.
U.S. Youth Soccer National League teams are sharing fields in Cary with the top four seeds in the NCAA women's final.
In the NCCAA women's final, UNC will face off against top-ranked Notre Dame on Sunday before a sell-out crowd at 2 p.m.
“It’s a massive weekend of girls’ soccer and then they get to see the best that the country has to offer in the NCAA final. I can’t think of a better place to have a tournament like this,” former UNC soccer player Lorrie Fair said. Fair now plays for a professional team Chelsea in England.
For the younger soccer players, all under age 17, it's a great opportunity to be noticed by colleges, league officials said.
"For college coaches, the League offers recruiting to some of the top players in the country," Paul Luchowski, commissioner of the U.S. Youth Soccer National League, said. "Here in Raleigh, having our League games in such close proximity to the college finals creates another big benefit to our League players."
The high schoolers can get noticed by a Triangle team – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose soccer team advanced to the finals of the NCAAs after beating UCLA, 1-0, Friday night.
Youth teams from Dallas and San Diego to Philadelphia and Massachusetts will be playing at WakeMed Soccer Park, 201 Soccer Drive in Cary, and WRAL Soccer Center, 7900 Perry Creek Road, through Sunday.
The weekend kicks off a yearlong season in the National League. The teams won spots in the league after rising to the top of their regional groups.
Ultimately, they are playing for two spots in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
The U.S. Youth Soccer National League draws teenaged teams from the United States Youth Soccer Association, the largest youth-sports organization in the country. It has more 3.2 million members between ages 5 and 19.
In Raleigh, the Capital Area Soccer League's National Soccer Series concludes this weekend. The final showcase has teams with teens ages 15-19. The series is expected to bring in more than $3 million this weekend. Overall
Overall more than 1,000 teams from throughout the country were brought to the Raleigh area in the past month. Overall, the four weekend showcases were expected to generate more than $7.4 million in direct visitor spending, according to the Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Some say bringing both events to the Triangle at the same time was marketing genius.
“It was something that was kind of a natural thing,” CASL tournament director Stewart Pierce said.