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Piranhas to host USL Championships
W-League and USL Super-20 League Finals headed to Virginia Beach
USL News Release

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 

TAMPA – United Soccer Leagues announced today that the hosting rights for the 14th Annual W-League Championship tournament and the Third Annual Super-20 League North American Finals have been awarded to the longtime USL club, the Hampton Roads Piranhas. The W-League Semifinals and Final are set for Thursday, July 31 and Saturday, August 2. The 24-team Super-20 League North American Finals (men’s and women’s) will officially begin Thursday, July 31 and run through Sunday, August 3.

“The Piranhas have been great hosts for USL events in the past, and we fully expect that the merger of these two great events will further spotlight the growth the women’s game has undergone since the W-League’s founding in 1995,” said USL Executive Vice President & COO Tim Holt. “The area and the facilities are of first-class quality, which will complement the caliber of play that will be seen on the pitch in both events.”

The Virginia Beach Sportsplex will feature the premier matches of the two events, hosting the W-League Semifinals, Final and the Super-20 League Championship games. All Super-20 League North American Finals group play and Semifinal matches will be played on one of the eight high-end natural grass fields located at the nearby Princess Anne Athletic Complex. The Sportsplex is capable of seating well over 10,000 fans and the two venues are within walking distance of one another.

“We felt the idea of combining the two events would maximize the correlation between the two leagues and their relationship with one another on and off the field,” said USL Senior Director of Youth League Development Jeff McRaney. “Complete clubs like the Washington Freedom, who won the Super-20 Finals in 2006 and then the W-League in 2007, will benefit greatly from the merger of these great events.”

The Super-20 event, which has doubled in prestige and crowd presence in its first two years, promises to do so again now that it is in combination with USL’s W-League Championship event, which has featured prominent world-class players since its founding in 1995. Players such as US internationals Christie Welsh and Tiffeny Milbrett; Canadian internationals Christine Latham and Christine Sinclair; and English internationals Rachel Yankey and Rachel Unitt are among those from the past three Finals.

By mingling the two events, female players on many of the top U20 teams in North America can now witness the aptitude needed to excel at what is currently the top level of women’s soccer in North America. Likewise, coaches and scouts from the W-League and other top soccer executives and coaches can get a direct glance at the top U20 females in North America as they prepare for their next campaign.

"The Piranhas are proud to host these two championships in beautiful Virginia Beach,” said club owner and member of the USL Hall of Fame, Marcie Laumann. “We want to make these events something our fans, our leagues, and every player participating will be proud of."

Hampton Roads, who won the W-League title in 2003 as hosts of the event, will be hosting the W-League Championship tournament for the third time. In addition to their cup-raising effort in 2003, the Piranhas played host to a memorable 2001 tournament in which the Boston Renegades won a thrilling 5-1 final against Vancouver on a night delayed by a severe thunderstorm that wiped out the Piranhas’ Third-Place match. This year, however, the Piranhas will have to qualify for the playoffs for a chance to reach the W-League championship tournament as the host will not receive an automatic berth as in years past with the event featuring the 2008 W-League Regular Season Champion and the three champions of the conference tournaments.

“Hampton Roads, a club that has been a model organization for the W-League since USL founded the league, is an optimal host for staging the 2008 W-League Championships,” said USL W-League Director Melanie Fitzgerald. “The club was also a leader in establishing a Women’s Super-20 League Division in the South Atlantic region last season. They are also one of several clubs that represent USL’s top-to-bottom club model consisting of senior franchises, Super-20 and Super Y-League teams as well as other endeavors, such as sponsoring two local Power Soccer (wheelchair) teams.”

The list of W-League clubs who have successfully used the Super-20 League to further develop their players for the next level includes: the Northern Virginia Majestics, FC Fredericksburg, the Boston Renegades, Connecticut Passion, Chicago Gaels, Toronto Lynx, the Long Island Rough Riders, West Virginia Illusion, Washington Freedom, FC Indiana and Hampton Roads Piranhas.

“It is no surprise that several of the clubs that field Super-20 teams are among the perennial leaders in the W-League,” added Fitzgerald. “Giving up-and-coming teenagers an opportunity to play and train alongside established international stars and professional caliber players on a regular basis excels their development, aiding the club as they advance to the senior side.”

Not to be left out, the men’s side of the Super-20 League Championship will have its fair share of headliners to watch. Two players from Kendall SC’s North American Championship side two years ago have already gone on to professional careers. Bryan Arguez signed with DC United and is now playing in the German Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin. Martin Nunez, the MVP of the inaugural finals has become a standout rookie contributor for the USL First Division Carolina RailHawks this season. The goalkeeper of that team, Diego Restrepo, has seen stints with the US U20 National Team. And last year’s championship MVP, Mike Konicoff, is now a key member of the Premier Development League’s Westchester Flames, who currently sit second in the division.

“In three years, the Super-20 League has become a great transition for the top high school and young collegiate players for the PDL,” said PDL Director, Lee Cohen. “Seeing players move up from what are essentially reserve squads for the PDL each year, sometimes during the season, is a great testament to what the Super-20 League is about.”

Regional qualification details for the Super-20 League North America Finals were also announced today [+]

About the USL W-League Championship Tournament
The W-League Championship has been hosted by a member club since the league’s founding in 1995. Last year’s final was hosted at Rochester’s PAETEC Park and saw the Washington Freedom win their second premier women’s title (WUSA 2003). Nine different clubs have claimed the 13 previous championships. Washington will be looking to become the third team (Boston 2001-02 and Raleigh 1998-99) to repeat. The Freedom, Piranhas and New Jersey Wildcats could be the fifth (Vancouver 2004, 06 and Long Island LR 1995, 97) to win twice. The 2008 Championship will feature the regular season champion (based on point percentage) and the winners of the Central, Eastern and Western Conference championship tournaments. 

About the 2006 & 2007 Super-20 League North American Finals
Both the 2006 and 2007 Super-20 League North American Finals were hosted by New Hampshire’s elite soccer club, Seacoast United, at their $5 million dollar outdoor complex in Epping, New Hampshire. In 2006 the event drew 24 top level U20 Men’s and Women’s teams from across North America. The second Super-20 North American Finals saw the women’s bracket expand to include another four teams. Both events contained some of the most thrilling matches on the USL calendar year and have drawn the attention of coaches beginning their college preseason schedule and attentive professional scouts looking to bring in top prospects.

Some of the most memorable matches in Super-20 history include: Kendall SC vs. Red Bull New York, the Washington Freedom vs. Parsippany SC, the Chicago Fire vs. Player Development Academy, the Toronto Lynx vs. Player Development Academy and Parsippany SC vs. Quickstrike SC.

About clubs competing in the Super-20 League North American Finals
Teams earning the right to compete in the Super-20 League North American Finals must first battle through the arduous Super-20 League regular season. The league’s Mid Atlantic Division, for example, contained 20 teams in 2007. Only the top six teams were invited to represent the division in the finals. Those clubs’ combined record following the regular season was an impressive, 41-7-6, a required winning percentage of .759.

About clubs competing in the Super-20 League
As the premier Under-20 league in North America, USL’s Super-20 League contains U20 academy teams of Major League Soccer, United Soccer Leagues First and Second Division and United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League. On the women’s side, the league contains teams from United Soccer Leagues W-League and two members of the newly formed WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer). The league also includes teams representing the top established youth clubs in North America.
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