Mia Hamm speaks at players luncheon to kick off 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships
BALTIMORE, Md. (Via US Youth Soccer) — The 2014 US Youth Soccer National Championships, presented by the National Guard, officially began Monday as more than 3,000 players, coaches, referees, officials and administrators gathered for the Player Luncheon at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Md.
Ninety-six teams from across the country are competing for national crowns in Under-13 through Under-19 Boys and Girls age groups at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md., and the week of competition began by honoring their accomplishments to this point.
US Youth Soccer President John Sutter welcomed the players, coaches and fans to the National Championships and talked about the opportunity the players have in front of them.
“This time of year is so special. It is the end of a season, but the beginning of a week that you will remember for the rest of your lives,” Sutter said. “On behalf of US Youth Soccer, I want to congratulate you, your teammates, your coaches, those behind the scenes that get everything organized, and especially your parents.”
The 14 championship trophies were escorted to the stage by several of the referees selected for the event. The Under-19 Boys James P. McGuire Cup, the oldest trophy in youth sports, was escorted by former National Champions referee and 2014 FIFA World Cup official Mark Geiger, who recently returned from Brazil.
The room filled with cheers of exhilaration when two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and US Youth Soccer alum Mia Hamm was announced as the guest speaker for the event.
Hamm told the players to embrace the opportunity to play for the National Championship and stressed that it takes heart and determination to get to this point.
“This tournament is all about you, and looking at this crowd, I have no doubt that I am looking at the future stars of our National Teams,” Hamm said. “Many of the men’s players, who we got to watch and scream at the TV this past month with the Men’s World Cup, they grew up and were sitting in the same seats you are sitting in now.”
The National Championships Player Luncheon peaked with excitement as the audience watched a highlight video tracking the teams’ successes at the Regional Championships and in the US Youth Soccer National League.
The final ascent to the National Championship for these teams begins with round robin play Tuesday, July 22 with games at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Preliminary games continue Wednesday and Thursday. After a day off on Friday, Under-14 through Under-18 teams will play semifinals on the morning of Saturday, July 26, before the first champions are decided when Under-13 and Under-19 sides compete in their final matches that night. The Under-14 through Under-18 National champions will be crowned on Sunday, July 27.
Live broadcasts will be available for select games during group play and semifinals, as well as all 14 National Championship finals. To watch the live streams of the games, visit http://championships.
The tournament consists of US Youth Soccer Regional Champions in the U-13 through U-19 Boys and Girls age groups, as well as the US Youth Soccer National League qualifiers in the Under-14 through Under-18 Boys and Girls age groups to complete the field of 96 teams.
Live broadcasts, daily reports and complete results from the tournament are available on http://championships.