Promoters of the fourth annual Washington Area Girls Soccer Invitational Tournament hope the large turnout his weekend will serve as a testament to the growth of distaff participation in the sport.
Northern Virginia will host 126 teams from eight states, Canada and the Netherlands with action in the eight age groups spanning 11 different fields. Every team will play a minimum of three games in the tournament, which commenced yesterday. Squads which advance to tomorrow's finals will have played five or six matches in the three-day competition.
The championship matches will be contested at two sites. Idlewood Park in Vienna will be the scene of title confrontations for the Select 1963s at noon. Select 1961s at 1:45 p.m. and the seniors at 3:15.
At Lanier Intermediate School in Fairfax, the Select 1968s play for their crown at 9:45 a.m., followed by the Select 1964s and 1967s competing on adjacent fields at 11:30 a.m., the Select 1966s at 1 p.m. and the Select 1965s at 2:30.
The select year indicates that all players were born on Jan. 1 of that year or after with no minimum age limit.
"The point is the girls like to play soccer as well as the boys. But seldom are there large tournaments for girls," said Joe Brooks, director of the event that drew 84 teams a year ago. "It's to promote girls soccer and show they can play . . ."
Brooks said the tournament easily has the largest field of any such event on the East Coast and probably is the second largest ever in North America.
The Select 1961s and the senior division probably will draw the most interest, the 19-team 1961 group will feature the McLean Grasshoppers and the Annandale Spirits, both 6-0 in WAGS play thus far this year, as well as perennially strong teams from Bowie and Springfield. The defending champion Oakville, Ontario, did not return.
The Grasshoppers have tucked five major tournament titles under their belts in the past year, including the prestigious Robbie Tournament in Toronto and the Northport (N.Y.) Invitational on Long Island, which determined Eastern regional supremacy.
The highlight of the senior division is a visit of a women's team from the Netherlands, expected by some to give a soccer lesson to the Americans.