Professional soccer players aren't the only ones taking their skills indoors this weekend.
Across town from the D.C., Armory, where the Washington Diplomats will battle the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 24 teams will gather today in George Washington University's Smith Center to begin a three-day indoor soccer tournament for collegians and for area boys and girls teams.
The first of 30 games gets under way at 12:30 p.m., inaugurating the North American Soccer League Players Association-GW indoor soccer tourney.
There will be no admission charge.
"Soccer is boomingly in the Washington area," said GW soccer coach George Edeline. "We're all here to promote socceer - to show the public that the sport is interesting and exciting."
Indoor soccer is not new to Edeline, who conducted a college tournament last year at Smith Center.The event was so successful that it quickly caught the attention of others.
One such person was John Kerr, a former midfielder for the Dips and current assistant staff director of the NASLPA. Two months ago, Kerr convinced Edeline to expand the tournament to include a junior competition - for 12-13 year-old boys and 14-15 year-old girls.
"I think it will be a terrific event," Kerr said. "Now, many age groups wil have a chance to stay in condition and refine skills."
Indeed, the indoor version of the game is demanding. It is played in a small, enclosed area (in this case, the Smith Center basketball court) with only six players per tewm. The game emphasizes running, and any player can wind up playing any of the six positions.
"It really teaches you to think fast, develop ball control and build stamina," Kerr said.
The teams in the junior divisions - eight boys' teams and eight girls' squads - will play 10-minute halfs. The eight college teams (Liberty Baptist, William & Mary, George Mason, UNC-Chapel Hill, University of the District of Columbia, American University, Catholic University and GW) will play 15-minute halfs.
The tournament continues at 7 p.m. Monday with boys, girls and college semifinals. Finals begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday.