Major League Soccer Wednesday announced the return of MLS Futbolito, the league's official 4-v-4 soccer tournament and grassroots program co-presented by Panasonic and the RadioShack Corporation which targets the League's growing multicultural fan base. The 2004 MLS Futbolito tournament, an all-day event in nine MLS markets in addition to Houston, San Antonio, and Miami, kicks off its second consecutive season on June 12 in San Jose, California.
"Futbolito is a great way for all soccer players to participate in a day-long, fun-filled competition while making an event of the day with their families and friends," said David Wright, Major League Soccer's Director of Fan Development. "The tournament offers everyone, from the novice to the experienced, the opportunity to compete and enjoy soccer in a unique format."
The 4-v-4 tournament is played on scaled down fields of approximately 20x30 yards and is open to players of all ages, abilities and affiliations. Team rosters can consist of up to seven players (four field players and three substitutes) and each team will play a minimum of three games in round-robin action, with the possibility of advancing to the single-elimination championship playoff.
MLS Futbolito, also sponsored by Honda and Yahoo en Español, will again feature the presence of legendary midfielder Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama. A seven-time MLS All-Star and Futbolito spokesman, Valderrama retired following the 2002 season and remains MLS' all-time leader in assists (114). As an official MLS Ambassador, "El Pibe" will be a guest at featured MLS Futbolito events and will be available to sign autographs and interact with participants.
"The Futbolito program shows that soccer can bring together all communities to enjoy the sport," Valderrama said. "The event is fun for players and families, and the games are exciting, fast-paced challenges that require more teamwork and technique than one would expect."
Teams registered for the competition will be divided according to age groups and competitive levels. Winners of each division will receive prizes with the first and second place teams in the Premier Division competing for $3000 in cash prizes. In addition to the games, each registered player will receive a ticket to an MLS game, a Futbolito t-shirt, and the chance to win prizes from co-presenting sponsors RadioShack and Panasonic. In 2003, the event's inaugural year, each venue played host to over 4000 attendees and garnered an 88 percent approval rating from participants who rated their overall experience as either 'excellent' or 'very good'. In conjunction with each MLS Team, day-to-day operation and event management will be provided by San Francisco, Calif.-based BRC Group. The official 2004 MLS Futbolito schedule follows:
June 12 – San Jose, Calif.
June 26 – Houston, Texas
July 3 – San Antonio, Texas
July 11 – Dallas, Texas
July 17 – Kansas City, Mo.
July 31 – Chicago, Ill.
August 15 – Columbus, Ohio
August 21 – Washington, D.C.
August 28 – New York, N.Y.
September 11 – Miami, Fla.
September 18 – Denver, Col.
September 25 – Los Angeles, Calif.
More information on the competitions and events in both English and Spanish can be found on the official web site for MLS Futbolito: www.MLSFutbolito.com, where teams can register for competitions, obtain complete lists of all rules and regulations and learn about the competition dates and locations. Additionally, interested participants with questions can call toll-free at 866-965-7484. The entrance fee is $150 per team for those competing in the Premier Division and $120 per team for all other participants.