Soccer has truly become a year-round sport in the Washington area.

Many of those who play outdoor soccer for their schools are now competing indoors during the offseason.

Bowie Coach Lou Reck, whose team tied for the Maryland State AA championship with Arundel last fall, said probably half his team plays indoors during the offseason.

"I think it's great that they're doing it," said Reck. "It keeps them in shape and it keeps their minds occupied."

Although the indoor game differs greatly from traditional outdoor soccer, Reck said it does not affect his players adversely. "It doesn't affect them negatively at all because they all play soccer outdoors in the summer and any bad habits they pick up indoors, they'll break during the summer," said Reck. "I just think it's good clean fun."

Sophomore Eric Miller, who plays for Maryland AA Region II champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase, said the indoor game is fun, but also rather dangerous at times. Miller, who also plays for the Rebels at the Corner Kick in Gaithersburg, said sprains are common and sometimes even broken bones occur during indoor games.

"The games are especially tough indoors," said Miller. "People have a tendency to really bang you up against the boards so you have got to be really careful because there can be a lot of injuries."

Miller is one of many B-CC players who compete at the Corner Kick. Miller has been playing there for three years.

"Even though it can be tough, it's really fun playing in a small area using all your skills," he said. "And I'm glad there is a place that you can play indoor soccer in the winter. It helps you so much to keep the soccer skills that you have acquired in the offseason. It's just a great place to go and play and have some fun with friends."

The Corner Kick, which is on Rte. 355 in Gaithersburg, and the White Marsh Racquet and Country Club, off Rte. 3 in Bowie, are both facilities that cater to soccer 12 months a year.

The Corner Kick opened on Thanksgiving weekend in 1984. Its owner, Alan Spavin, played for the old Washington Diplomats. Spavin, who is originally from Lancaster, England, moved back to the United States in 1983 to run a soccer program in Annandale. One year later, the Corner Kick was opened.

"I saw that there was a real interest in soccer -- a growth -- that people were interested in playing all year," said Spavin. "But there wasn't a facility available. So we came up with this idea and it has grown in popularity every year."

When the Corner Kick opened, it started with 280 teams. It now houses 410. The winter session is home to the largest number, 160. The age of players ranges from six to 35 -- boys, girls, men and women. The facility has two artificial-turf fields, 53 yards by 21. Games consist of two 25-minute halves. Teams play seven days a week, 5 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"It's really fantastic," said Erik Lee, a senior soccer player at Walt Whitman High School. Lee plays on a 19-and-under team called 88.

"It's a very fast-paced game. It's tiring. You need to control the ball a lot more and work it around," said Lee, comparing the indoor to the outdoor game.

Lee said the indoor game helps improve outdoor skills.

"In the indoor game, you don't have time to think. Everything is happening so fast," said Lee. "And ball control is much more important because you don't have as large a playing field. So it helps you with reflex and with technical skills. Playing {indoors} also helps keep you in shape during the offseason."

To form a team costs $350. With 12 on a team, that breaks down to $30 per member for eight games.

The White Marsh club has been open since 1974, but only began offering soccer in 1986. The club converted three tennis courts into one artificial-turf field, 155 feet by 87. Games are played 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.

"It's really been unbelievable," said owner Bill Berkshire. "We're all really excited about what's happened here with soccer."

When soccer was first offered at the facility, there were 19 teams. White Marsh now has 134. Berkshire decided to open the facility after looking at the percentage of area youth that participated in the sport. "There were enormous numbers of people in the area who were playing outdoor soccer," he said.

Games at White Marsh are 48 minutes long, broken into four 12-minute quarters. There are leagues for young children and for adults, men and women.

Cindy Wesley, 23, played soccer at Arundel High School. She plays in the co-ed league Tuesday night and coaches an 18-and-under girls team.

Wesley, who plays goalie, loves the indoor game because, "You get a lot more shots coming at you {indoors}," she said. "In the indoor game, you're constantly moving. It's a faster paced game, and it seems like people really like the change."

Trisha Rogers, 29, plays at the Corner Kick. A graduate of Howard High School, she never played soccer until three years ago. She began playing because her husband was an avid participant. "I got tired of watching him and decided I wanted to try.

"It's great exercise," said Rogers who plays on the lower level team. "People out there are there to learn skills and have a good time. This place is also very nice. I feel very comfortable bringing my children here."

Because players are able to compete outdoors in the spring and summer months, seasonal dropoff in attendance is common at both facilities. In order to get through the offseason, White Marsh and the Corner Kick offer a variety of programs and clinics. But with the overall growth of soccer, the sport's popularity in the winter months alone seems able to support both busineses.

"Soccer has come a long way," said Wesley. "Small kids are now playing even though they don't really understand the concept of the sport. Once, something like Little League baseball was really popular, but there, unless a kid is a pitcher or catcher, he might go the entire game without touching the ball. In soccer, kids can get out and just enjoy kicking the ball around."

"Soccer is a challenging sport," said Lee. "And {the Corner Kick} is really special to people like me who love the sport. It gives us a chance to play all year, and the people are really nice and encouraging. I'm just glad it's here."