The team won four and tied two of the seven games it played in its Northern Virginia soccer league, but it's being shut out of a Canadian invitional tournament because three of the team members are girls.

"I couldn't believe it," said the team's coach, Nelson McAvoy of the Canadian officials' decision. "It's a surprise to me. I just mean I never thought they'd do something like that to us. The "us" is the Little River Soccer Association's Cougars, a team of 12-year-olds playing in an otherwise all-male league.

The tournament is the Oakville International Tournament in Ontario, Canada, and will be held July 1-3. The governing rules, according to the Canadian officials, say there shall be "no playing between boys and girls," and the difficulties have attracted attention from the Canadian Embassy.

Chris Watts of the embassy's cultural office said the Oakville tournament officials appear to be within their rights, but he said he has referred the matter to Sports Canada in Ottawa, the ruling body of all sports in the country.

A Sports Canada official said he has asked the Canadian Soccer Assocaition to "take a look at" the problem to "try and see if there is a way to resolve it."

So far, these efforts have failed, and McAvoy seems stuck with the tournament ruling.

McAvoy met with 16 mothers and fathers last week to see if a way could be found out of the impasse. Most of the parents present had sons on the teams, but the mood of the meeting was clear: Either the whole team goes or nobody goes.

"I'm the most outspoken person against girls on a boys soccer team there is," one boy's father offered, "but I say the team is the team."

Most of the parents at the meeting agreed that the three girls were generally accepted. In fact, it appears that Lisa Reed, Sara Sittnick and Trina Swinehart are an integral part of the team.

"You've never seen such team work between the sexes>" Mary Hunton, a mother said, "Even in a marriage." Don Brunner, whose son is the team's goalie, said one of the team's better players is a girl.

Brunner said he thought the tournament would be good experience for the team because it would be exposed to different styles of play on the part of the 10 Canadian and two Mexican teams that are entered in the minor "peewee" division.

Donald J. Weake, the tournament organizer, reached by phone at his Oakville home, said his organization is only following an international rule established by the world ruling body of soccer, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

"We're going by the rules of FIFA," Weake said. "The rules clearly dictate that there should be no playing between boys and girls. We don't have any integrated soccer anywhere in Ontario, or as far as I know in all of Canada."

This position was confirmed by an official of the Ontario Soccer Association.

"The gentleman at Little River (McAvoy) knew all along that the tournament was a boy's tournament," Weake said.

When it was pointed out that the Little River association was also affiliated with FIFA through the United States Soccer Federation, Weake said, "Maybe they choose not to abide by the rules there."

American officials say leagues here are more flexible with the international ruling to conform with civil equality laws.

McAvoy said he knew it was a boys' tournament, but did not think that meant it excluded the girls. "Shucks, they play in a boys' league now. I never gave it a second thought," he said.

The tournament's rules make no specific mention of such, only a reference to the fact that all matches must conform to FIFA regulations.

"We went through the whole thing, and ti doesn't say anything about boys," one mother said. "I think they just didn't want to be embarrassed if we win."