LIHUE — West Kauai, or Region 940 of the American Youth Soccer Organization, received a bid to participate in the AYSO National Games in Los Angeles.
Six boys from Kauai will team up with six more from Mililani on Oahu and compete in 12-and-under boys division of the tournament which starts Thursday.
West Kauai coach William Trugillo said his kids are teaming up with kids from Mililani because he didn’t have enough players to complete a 12-man roster.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s the first time they’re playing soccer out of the state. It’s a good opportunity … It’s a new experience for all of us,” Trugillo said. “We have a team from Florida, a team from Pennsylvania and three teams from California in our pool.
“I’m thinking a lot of kids nationwide are going to be jazzed about going and playing in this. The World Cup is going. It’s right in the middle of the World Cup. So, it’s going to be fun,” the coach added.
Though Trugillo hasn’t worked with the players from Mililani, his team played against them in a tournament in March.
“We’re hoping to get a practice or two in when we go up to California,” Trugillo said. “We’ve never played kids from California or anywhere on the Mainland … It’s a new experience for all these boys.”
West Kauai will be one of 36 teams representing Hawaii at the National Games where there are boys and girls divisions for five age-specific groups ranging from 10-and-under to 19-and-under.
“(I’m looking forward to) just having fun and representing Hawaii,” said 12-year-old Ha’o Trugillo from Hanapepe, who plays midfielder. “I’ve never had an interest in any other sports. Since I’ve started small, I’ve grown up playing, so I have a big interest in soccer.”
The tournament is structured much like the FIFA World Cup, in which teams play in groups during the qualifying round. Teams with the highest scores then advance to the single-elimination playoff.
The AYSO games are unique, however, in that teams receive points not only for wins and goals scored but also for demonstrating good sportsmanship.
“I expect it to be challenging, but I think our team can overcome,” said 12-year-old Ben Griep from Koloa, who plays centerback and midfielder. “I like soccer because you can travel around the world a lot and it’s fun to play because it’s a team sport and you can interact with other people.
“I think it will kind of be both easy and hard. We’ve played against them and they seem like nice kids so it seems like we can get along well, but it’s also hard because we don’t know how (they) play,” Griep added about playing with the boys from Mililani.