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Unified soccer league ready to lace up cleats

The Hillsborough County United Soccer Club will be the largest of its kind in Tampa Bay.

By MELANIE AVE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000


It's not AOL, Time Warner or a marriage, but it's a merger just the same.

Three well-established Tampa soccer clubs have begun consolidating into the Hillsborough County United Soccer Club. The new club began holding tryouts this weekend for its first competitive teams for the 2000-2001 season.

The Carrollwood Soccer Club, Northdale Soccer Club and Greater North Tampa Youth Soccer League will continue to have recreational teams this season. But all three clubs will officially cease to exist at the end of the season, on Memorial Day weekend 2001.

The Hillsborough County United Soccer Club will be one of Tampa Bay's largest youth soccer organizations with about 2,300 recreational and competitive players expected next year.

"It's sort of like a marriage," said Tim Farrell, president of the Carrollwood club. "You've got your past, but you've also got your future."

The club will be based at the new Ed Radice Park, which will be completed next spring on the southeast corner of Race Track and S Mobley roads. The park will have nine soccer fields.

The three clubs, whose players sometimes compete against one another, have been talking about combining their efforts for about two years. But the transition into one club didn't begin until this year.

Tryouts for competitive teams for boys under age 11 and girls under age 18 began Saturday. Older boys will play one last year with the Carrollwood and Northdale clubs. Greater North Tampa only has recreational teams.

Organizers said the new, larger club will give them a chance to create teams of single age groups, in-depth training programs and a more efficient registration and uniform ordering process.

"There's also a larger player pool to draw from, which will help the success of the teams," Farrell said.

The Hillsborough County United Club will use the facilities of the three existing clubs this season. Once it moves to Radice Park, Farrell said it will continue to use the old fields for practices.

Crews began work in January on the 150-acre Ed Radice Park, which will be the county's largest sports park. Named after Hillsborough County's longtime parks and recreation director, the sprawling $8-million complex is scheduled to open in April 2001.

In addition to soccer fields, it will have five baseball diamonds, five softball fields, three concession stands and more than 800 parking spaces.

For information about the Hillsborough County United Soccer Club, please call (813) 968-3734 or visit its Web site at http://www.hsusoccer.com.

-- Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3473 or melanie@sptimes.com.

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