LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The nation's elite youth soccer stars are once again converging at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex this month for Disney's Soccer Showcase presented by adidas, which recently ranked as America's premier youth soccer tournament. More than 400 teams comprised of the most celebrated youth soccer players in the nation are expected to compete in the sixth annual event which has long been regarded as the most highly-regarded scouting event for top NCAA college soccer programs in the United States. The boys tournament is Dec. 27-30, followed by the girls event Dec. 30-Jan.2, both at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, the nation's preeminent sports venue for amateur and professional sporting events. This year's Soccer Showcase enters a new era as the top youth soccer event in the nation, according to Soccer America, the leading soccer publication in the United States. The magazine surveyed more than 300 leading youth soccer coaches around the country and Disney's Soccer Showcase ranked No. 1 in all 10 categories for boys and girls events - best tournament competition, best tournament organization, best tournament facilities, best tournament showcase and best tournament destination. The Soccer America rankings reflect the extraordinary and rapid growth of Disney's Soccer Showcase in recent years. Since the inaugural tournament in 2000 which involved 71 teams, the tournament has noticeably expanded in size and stature, featuring more than 400 of the country's most elite youth teams from a pool of nearly 1,000 interested squads. "The Soccer America rankings underscore the tremendous growth of Disney's Soccer Showcase and confirms the event's prominent national reputation among coaches, players and fans around the country,'' said Patrick Dicks, soccer program manager at Disney Sports Attractions. "This year's event is expected to be the best ever and is indicative of the kind of premier amateur and professional sporting events that take place regularly at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. Through our state-of-the-art sports facilities, our team of expert sports and recreation professionals and the entertainment of Walt Disney World, we offer fans and athletes a unique sports and vacation experience that can't be found anywhere else." This year, Disney's Soccer Showcase will include top boys and girls teams in 14 age groups (under-12 through under-18), as well as an adidas Super Group, which will feature the United States Under-17 men's national team and U.S. Youth Soccer's Olympic Development Program (ODP) Boys Regional Teams. Teams that compete in Disney's Soccer Showcase must meet criteria based on national rankings, previous tournament records, state and regional cup results, and the quality of their roster. Teams that do not meet the criteria can still earn a place in the tournament by finishing among the top two teams in their respective age groups in a September qualifier tournament. New to the Showcase in 2005, will be the presentation of the Disney Soccer Showcase Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was created to recognize an individual whose contributions to soccer have been clearly outstanding and have made a positive difference in the growth of soccer in the United States. The first recipient of the award will be Charlie Stillitano, a former Venue Executive Director for the FIFA World Cup USA 1994 and former Vice President and General Manager of Major League Soccer's NY/NJ MetroStars. Opened in 1997 at Walt Disney World, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex is the preeminent sports venue for amateur and professional sports in the United States. The sprawling 240-acre state-of-the-art complex features the Milk House, a 30,000-square-foot field house which seats 5,000 for basketball; the 9,500-seat Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex; and the Hess Sports Fields, which include multiple baseball, softball and soccer fields. In addition, the complex has 10 tennis courts, including a stadium court, and a track and field complex. The complex is home to more than 170 amateur and professional sports events each year, including the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp, the Major League Baseball Atlanta Braves spring training, the Pop Warner Super Bowl, AAU National Championship events, the Sports Experience interactive area and the All-Star Cafe sports-themed restaurant. The complex is the centerpiece of Disney's Wide World of Sports, which includes 99 holes of golf among six golf courses, including the site of the PGA TOUR's prestigious FUNAI Classic, the Richard Petty Driving Experience, the Walt Disney World Marathon, BASS fishing excursions, plus Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, the two most popular water parks in the United States, and a variety of sports and recreation activities such as boating, fishing, parasailing and surfing. Registration for the 2005 Disney's Soccer Showcase presented by adidas is currently closed. More information on Disney's Soccer Showcase is available at www.disneysoccershowcase.com. For more information on events taking place at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex please visit www.disneyworldsports.com.
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