Baltimore's Casa Mia under-17 boys club, the defending national champion, is one of four Maryland teams that will compete next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships.
The 48-team tournament for boys and girls teams from under-14 through under-19 age groups, will start Tuesday and run through July 25 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
Joining Casa Mia from the state by winning their Region I age-group tournaments are the Baltimore Bays U-19 boys; last year's national runner-up, Bethesda Excel, U-17 girls; and Bethesda United, U-15 boys.
Teams will play three games against the other three regional champions from Tuesday through July 23. The top two teams in each age group advance to the championship round on July 25.
Casa Mia shut out all five teams from Region I - comprising teams from Virginia and West Virginia north to Maine - by 13-0The squad was runner-up two years ago before capturing the title last summer.
"None of the three other [region champs] were there last year. What helps even more is that we haven't played our best soccer yet," said Casa Mia coach Steve Nichols.
Defender Matt Beckman (McDonogh) scored seven goals in region play, with former Archbishop Curley standout Drew Yates anchoring the midfield.
Casa Mia will open its defense on Tuesday against FC United from Washington state. The Baltimore team's biggest challenge could come from the Chicago Magic, which advanced to the U.S. tournament in 2002.
Round-robin schedule (championships July 25):
Tuesday - U-15 boys: Chicago Magic vs. Bethesda United, 7:30 a.m.; U-16 boys, FC united (Wash.) vs. Casa Mia, 9:30 a.m.; U-17 girls, Windy City Pride (Ill.) vs. Bethesda Excel, 6 p.m.; U-19 boys, HSC Bulls (Hawaii) vs. Baltimore Bays, 8 p.m.
Wednesday - U-17 girls, Dallas Texans Red vs. Bethesda Excel, 9:30 a.m.; U-16 boys, Chicago Magic vs. Casa Mia, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday - U-19 boys, Scott Gallagher (Mo.) vs. Baltimore Bays, 9:30 a.m.; U-15 boys, Solar '89 Texans vs. Bethesda United, 6:30 p.m.
Friday - U-17 girls, Southern California United vs. Bethesda Excel, 7:30 a.m.; U-19 boys, CASL Elite (N.C.) vs. Baltimore Bays, 9:30 a.m.; U-16 boys, Texans vs. Casa Mia, 11:30 a.m.; U-15 boys, Arsenal FC (Calif.) vs. Bethesda United, 6 p.m.