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Maryland State Cup hits Hub City

April 18, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Some of Maryland's best youth soccer talent was on display Saturday at the Hagerstown Soccer Club complex for the early stages of the U.S. Youth Soccer Maryland State Cup tournament.

Forty-eight of the tournament's 273 teams - spanning seven age groups (under-12 to under-18) for both the boys and girls competitions - took to the complex's five fields for their first games in the single-elimination tournament - including two girls team from Boonsboro.

It's merely the start of a two-month odyssey spanning several sites across the state, culminating with the 14 championship games on June 6.

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The state champions in each age group advance to the Region 1 tournament, which includes the New England and Mid-Atlantic states.

"It's the biggest tournament in which to showcase your team, because everyone in Maryland wants a chance to showcase their team at regionals," Hagerstown Soccer Club Vice President Rick Aleshire said.

Region champions advance to the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships.

The Boonsboro Blaze under-15 girls team advanced to next weekend's round of 16 with a 4-2 victory over the HFC Explosion. The Boonsboro Blaze under-14 girls team fell to the Potomac Havoc, 9-0.

The Hagerstown Freedom girls under-12 and under-16 teams open play at the complex next Saturday in the round of 16.

The single-elimination format, combined with the various playing sites and a random draw which pairs teams up for early-round matches (with the exception of last year's finalists and semifinalists in each age group, which receive seeds), makes surviving and thriving in the Maryland Cup a challenge, said Aleshire - who has coaching experience in the tournament.

"It is quite different, but once you've played in it for a couple years, you know which teams you have to play your best against," Aleshire said. "Sometimes, it's the luck of the draw, sometimes not."

Soccer facilities across the state can apply for the right to host Maryland Cup games, something Aleshire and the Hagerstown Soccer Club was more than willing to do.

"It is pretty prestigious, and I think it's good Hagerstown can bring these kinds of teams here and get to see this level of soccer," Aleshire said. "It's good for our kids to see that and get better."

For more information on the Maryland Cup tournament, visit the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association Web site at www.msysa.org.

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