They could have spent their summers at poolside, or getting a driver's license, things one would expect of 16-year-olds.
Instead, a group of Montgomery County kids, all of them soccer players and most of them aged 16, spent their weekends kicking soccer balls, beating every team they met.
Today through Sunday, the Montgomery Pintos will attempt to prove they are the best 16-and-under team in the country.
They left yesterday for San Jose and the United States Soccer Foundation's national tournament for 16-and-under teams. The Pintos, the Eastern region champions, face three region champions from Dallas, Las Vegas, and Centerville, Ohio. The winner plays the best of four Canadian teams for the North American championship.
"A trip like this is what we've been working for," said Ralph Miller, who took off from his job as a lifeguard. "This is it."
The Pintos are the latest of several Washington-area youth teams to play in national competition. Older teams from the Annandale Boys Club, including the Cavaliers, under-19 champions in 1976; the Red Wings, 16-and-under champions in 1977, and the Rovers, 16-and-under runners-up in 1979, have given way to strong Montgomery clubs. Earlier this summer, the Potomac Kickers won the Eastern region title of the McGuire Cup, the national championship for 19-and-under teams.
Playing in Mid-Maryland League games on Saturdays and in National Capital League games on Sundays, the Pintos have sailed through the summer undefeated. Their 30-0 record includes five wins in Binghamton, N.Y., where they defeated a team from Long Island, 2-0, for the Eastern title in July.
The players attend 10 different high schools, and were pulled together in a someone-knowing-someone manner. Three of them have played on the team for eight years -- Bruce Murray, the son of Coach Gordon Murray; Chuck Bidinger, who plays on the Magruder High School team, and Curt Bartell of Springbrook.
Miller, from Whitman, and John Kerr Jr., son of the team's other coach, are other longtime Pintos.
The team has been successful from its inception. Although there is no national tournament for youths 14 and younger, the Pintos were Eastern region champions as 10-and-under, 12-and-under and 14-and-under teams.
The team's good fortune has been reason for some of the players' families to take their vacations in San Jose.
Even the elder Murray will stay extra days to play golf at Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. Previously a member of the old Washington Darts, Murray, 43, is the golf professional at Bretton Woods Recreation Center in Germantown.
It was from there that Murray rounded up the team's two newest members, Fernando and Alvaro Escobar, brothers from Whitman.
John Kerr, 37, the other coach, played professional soccer for 16 years. He is a former member of Canada's World Cup team, and retired in 1977 after playing with the Cosmos and Washington Diplomats.
"This trip is quite exciting," said Kerr. "These kids have waited for so long to turn 16."