They come from Bowie, Baltimore and Bethesda, Takoma Park and Potomac. Two were high school all-Americans and one was invited recently to train with the Olympic squad. Show the slightest bit of interest and their coach will explain how Brazil's fullbacks emerged as effective attackers in the 1958 World Cup.

The Bethesda Alliance soccer club that plays in this week's U.S. Youth Soccer Championships in Woodbridge is not your average youth team like the tens of thousands that play in municipal parks in quiet suburban neighborhoods everywhere.

Jeff Stroud, Michael Kleinert, Chris Johnson and Greg McLaughlin play collegiately for Maryland. Erik Imler, Craig Brannan and Tim Kunihiro were freshmen on Virginia's NCAA co-champion team last fall. Dewan Bader (N.C. State) and Neil Rowland (Wake Forest) also play in the ACC.

"The whole purpose of the program was to get them into scholarship programs," Alliance Coach Graham Ramsey said. "We wanted to give them a soccer education, and that's mostly been fulfilled."

The Alliance plays San Francisco United in the under-19 semifinals Friday at 6 at Woodbridge High. The under-16 boys and girls semifinals are Thursday with the title matches Saturday. The under-19 semifinals are Friday and the finals Sunday.

Imler, the Alliance's quiet captain from Bowie, starts at outside fullback for Virginia. After playing in the U.S. Olympic Festival two weeks ago, he was was invited to play for the Olympic team.

The Alliance, which defeated Prince William in the Eastern Regional final this month, tries to become the fifth Washington area club in 15 years and fourth in nine years to win the under-19 McGuire Cup.

The Annandale Boys Club won in 1976 and 1982. Montgomery United, with the help of 1990 World Cup player Bruce Murray and former NCAA player of year John Kerr Jr., took the 1983 crown and the Columbia (Md.) Jays were the 1985 winners.

Ramsey is an intriguing character. He went to Canada from England in 1967 and now lives in Rockville as a soccer coach, consultant and businessman. Few follow the game as passionately and even fewer study it so closely.

That there are about 12 million youth players and thousands of club teams in the country didn't stop Ramsey from seeing the Alliance's semifinal opponent in February. And he's also scouted the Minnesota Blackhawks, who play Chapel Hill-Durham (N.C.) in Friday's second semifinal.

Except for Brannan and Kunihiro, who switched from Northern Virginia clubs this year, the Alliance has been playing together since late 1987. In March 1989 it competed in the prestigious under-17 pro apprentice tournament in West Germany.

"Still waters run deep with this team," Ramsey said. "The better players gravitated the 1983 team {Montgomery} that won it. This team has a fine balance. There are no superstars. We have the intelligence in the midfield that was lacking last year."

WHAT: U.S. Youth Soccer Championships for boys and girls at Woodbridge High School, Woodbridge, Va.

WHEN: Thursday (under-16 semifinals, 9 a.m., 6 p.m.), Friday (under-19 semifinals, 9 and 6), Saturday (under-16 finals, 2 and 4), Sunday (under-19 finals, 2 and 4).

TEAMS: Champions from four regions, including three clubs from the Washington area (Bethesda Alliance, Bethesda Mustangs, Springfield Spirit).

TICKETS: $3 per day or $10 and $5 packages.