Geologist Simon Cargill doesn't like the dirt. Something about the decomposed igneous and meteoric rocks from the Early Triassic Basin. Graham Ramsey, a former soccer consultant in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, doesn't know how he's going to pay a whopping hotel bill.

They are just two of the curious characters who will play big parts in the U.S. Youth Soccer Championships that will begin Thursday at Woodbridge High School.

Of the 16 teams from 12 states in four divisions, the Washington area will be represented by three clubs that swept through the eastern regionals earlier this month in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Ramsey coaches the Bethesda Alliance, which will try to become the fifth area under-19 club since 1976 to win the McGuire Cup. The Bethesda Mustangs are chasing the Niotis Cup in the under-16 boys division and the Springfield Spirit will go after its second national title in three years in the Athena Cup for under-19 girls.

The playing field should be in excellent condition, despite "that poor Virginia red clay. It just doesn't hold water well," said Cargill.

The biggest obstacle for area clubs this year may be financing their tournament appearances. The U.S. Youth Soccer Association pays travel and lodging expenses for visiting teams, but not for the local clubs that, despite the proximity, are required to stay at tournament headquarters (the Springfield Hilton).

"It's pretty pathetic," Ramsey said. "Here's the Super Bowl of youth soccer and the {U.S. Youth Association} can't even subsidize the teams that have gotten here."