To Bob McAvan, Soccer Blast USA is an appropriate prelude to the World Cup that will be held in this country next year.
"The World Cup is such a spectacle," said McAvan, the former Blast player who is co-owner of the Maryland Sports Arena, an indoor soccer complex on Pulaski Highway.
"It's a year away, but you can sense it building already. There were some fabulous games in July at RFK Stadium when Brazil, England and Germany came for the U.S. Cup. Magnify that to 24 teams and you'll have cities pulsating as the foreigners invade."
McAvan was talking yesterday at Festival Hall, where Soccer Blast USA stopped on its 36-city tour. The one-day soccer festivals are designed to stimulate interest in the World Cup.
About 2,000 people turned out yesterday, matching the tour average. The tour started Aug. 14 in Boston and will end Dec. 19 in San Diego. The next stop is Saturday in Indianapolis.
"This is an education for kids," McAvan said, looking around the Hall. "This is grass-roots stuff."
In addition to clinics, games and autograph sessions, the festival included soccer-skill games for youngsters. There were kicking, heading and dribbling games, and one allowing children to try to stop shots in a goal.
"The goalkeeper game seemed to be the big hit," said Kevin Healey, coach of the Baltimore Bays, the festival's host team. "This is a good turnout, considering this is the first weekend of the local soccer season. There were games all over the area. Still, kids and their parents made the effort to come here before or after their games."
Healey, McAvan and other local retirees played a 30-minute, five-on-five game against former national and international stars including Werner Roth, Charlie Cooke and Paul Mariner. Three leading U.S. women players participated in the game.