David Elam wants to improve his soccer game and, this summer, the Bishop O'Connell High School fullback will get more than ample opportunity to do just that.

Elam will be able to work on his game when he takes a five-week tour through Europe and the Soviet Union to play in various games and tournaments. The Fairfax resident is participating in TEAMS/USA, a Illinois-based, non-profit soccer development organization that aims to promote the sport and increase playing ability for teen-agers throughout the nation.

The organization, an affiliate of the four-year-old U.S. Youth Soccer Association, is designed to take top players and improve their performance through intensive international competition.

Of the 57 teams representing 24 states, five are from the Washington area. Elam, 17, will compete on the Mid-Atlantic under-19 team.

Two boys teams of younger players will also represent the Mid-Atlantic on the tour, in addition to an All-East girls team and two teams from Maryland.

Players were selected from extensive tryout sessions in the winter and spring. Participants also went through a screening process that included applications and coaches' recommendations.

"Our players are selected not only for their technical ability, but also for their promise," said Dean Duerst, a program director.

"Our plan is to immerse them in soccer," said Mark Huck, another program director. "We want them to come back for high school and college seasons greatly improved."

For Elam, this is a dream opportunity. "That's what everybody talks about -- going to Europe to play soccer," Elam said. "Five weeks of soccer . . . I think I'll improve a lot, especially with that kind of competition and with different kinds of players."

According to Kelvin Joseph, O'Connell's coach of 20 years, Elam's ability and personality make him an ideal choice for the program.

"He is courteous, well-poised and friendly. He will be an excellent ambassador when he goes abroad," Joseph said. "He is a versatile player . . . He has excellent ball control. The pleasure and joy with a kid like that is that you can see him gradually progress. He's a real team leader."

TEAMS/USA raised more than $500,000 for the program this year, but much of the funding for the trip comes from individual fundraisers and contributions from local businesses.

The first week of the trip will be spent in Amsterdam, where professional Danish coaches will run a training camp for the U.S. teams and coaches. For Brian Murphy, the girls coach, this will be his first chance to work with his team. The Connecticut resident, who usually coaches at summer camps, expects the trip to be a real learning experience.

"Any exposure you get improves coaching. You're exposed to new ideas and pick up new ideas," Murphy said. "It will be a combination of soccer playing and a great experience for the kids."

Richard Derflinger, a Mid-Atlantic coach, has coached and played soccer for many years. He feels the trip will be invaluable to the players. "It gives the kids a good cultural outlook," he said. "It gives them something to compare themselves to."

Maryland coach Mark Trotta has already held practices with his under-19 team and is optimistic his team will do well against some of the best teams in Denmark, Sweden, West Germany and other countries.

"I have a good nucleus of players. {They will be able to create} better respect as to their own position in soccer compared to other countries."