This weekend, dozens of teams will converge on the Owings Mills SportsPlex for the annual National Indoor Soccer Regional Championships.
Anywhere from 30 to 40 youth soccer teams from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia will compete for a spot in the coming national playoffs. It's split up by age, ranging from kids younger than 9 to kids 16-17. The top three teams in each category will qualify for the national finals.
Bill Wegmann is an assistant coach for the Baltimore Soccer Club Rapids, who will make their second appearance at the regional tournament this weekend. Last year, they placed second in their division and made it to the nationals in Sterling, Va.
Both the regional and national tournaments are sponsored by the soccer apparel company Upper 90. Originally, the finals were only in the Midwest, but as the Baltimore area grew, the company decided to move one of the nationals to this area.
"Baltimore's a big area," said John Collett, Upper 90's regional director. "We've had some good support there. Originally we just did national finals like in Michigan and Ohio, but because the East Coast has a lot of participation, we've moved one of the nationals to Sterling, Va. It's a bit closer."
The tournaments are round robin with a championship game to decide the victor, Wegmann said. Wegmann's son, Gage, plays on the Rapids, which played four games over the course of two days at last year's regionals.
Going back to the regionals for a second time, Wegmann said, the Rapids will be more comfortable with the tournament's ins and outs this time around. But since their opponents will come from all over the region, there's really no way of knowing their strengths and weaknesses without first playing them or watching them play another team, he said.
"On one hand, we understand the rules, we understand some of the idiosyncrasies of the tournament," Wegmann said. "But on the other hand, you really don't know what you're competing against until you get into the game situation."
This year, the Rapids will face a handful of other teams, including teams from the Eastern Shore and Northern Virginia.
Usually, indoor soccer games move quicker than outdoor games, Wegmann said. He expects this weekend's tournament to be no different.
"It's a very fast game," Wegmann said.
The National Indoor Soccer Regional Championships come to Owings Mills Sportsplex at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The facility is at 12400 Owings Mills Blvd. in Reisterstown. For more information, call 410-517-2900 or go to owingsmillssportsplex.com.