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Soccer league has record turnout for registration

Ask any coach, parent of player and they'll probably say involvement is the biggest draw to youth soccer. Everyone gets to kick the ball.

Last weekend, the Central Pasco United Soccer Association kicked off its second summer instructional league with a record turnout of more than 300 players. Similar to the increased numbers of the 1994-95 regular season, registration for the summer league increased by about 100.

"The explosion spilled over into the summer," said Mike Millen, who coaches an under-13 boys team. "We don't know what to expect in the fall."

League president Bruce Martin predicted, "The majority of kids who play in the summer are going to come back in the regular season."

Last year, about 600 players dotted CPUSA rosters, a dramatic increase from the 250 youngsters who took part in the league just four seasons ago.

Games for boys and girls on under-6 through under-19 teams began last weekend and extend through July 29. There are no practices, just two games a week in a 14-game season at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex on Collier Parkway.

Actually, there were brief practice sessions before the start of the summer league, but none are scheduled now that games are under way.

"With the little guys, you have to do a little practicing so they know which way to go," Martin said.

Millen said, "The focus is on a summer activity; a fun-type thing."

"This is more for fun," agreed Tony Masella, whose son Cody joined a soccer team a week after finishing Little League season. "In baseball, they stand out in the outfield and never touch the ball. In this, there's a lot more action."

Helen Kearney, who watched her son Devon, 8, and daughter Dana, 10, play last Saturday, said her children love soccer.

"There's not a lot of pressure," Kearney said. "It's teaching them how to play and that's what's important."

At the upper level are the under-19 clubs, which line up six players a side with no goalies. The targets are under-6-size nets. And with only eight players a team, everyone does his share of running.

"It takes a lot of skill and makes you work together on a smaller field," said Vicky King, the Land O'Lakes High girls coach who is a referee in the summer league.

Two of King's former players _ friends Heather Stringfellow and Jaime Parr _ are reunited on the soccer field this summer. Stringfellow is headed to West Florida in Pensacola in the fall. Parr is coming off an 11-goal, three-assist season at Lee-McLaine College where she was named Freshman of the Year.

CPUSA games are played Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.