Last weekend, 12 soccer teams converged on Washington D.C., all hoping for a shot to play next May in South Africa against the best teams in the world.
These teams are the best in the country, and two are from Lake Norman.
The FC Carolina Alliance Huntersville Highlanders and 97 Lake Norman Soccer Club Black joined teams from Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the U.S. finals of the Volkswagen Junior Masters Soccer Series, an international youth tournament for kids 13 years old and younger.
The FCCA Huntersville team place 11th in the tournament and the LNSC Black team placed 10th in a highly competitive field last weekend.
The winner, PDA Pele from New Jersey, won an all expenses paid trip to South Africa next May to compete in the Junior Masters World Finals against teams from 20 different countries.
The tournament will lead into the FIFA World Cup, which starts begins in June in South Africa.
Both teams qualified by playing in the championship game of the Twin City Classic in Winston Salem. The FCCA Huntersville Highlanders won their match 6-2.
Ross Steedman, the FCCA Huntersville coach, said the D.C. trip was a great experience for his players.
"It's one of those things they'll never forget," he said before leaving for the tournament. "They will get to meet new friends from around the country."
The 97 LNSC Black team, based out of the Lake Norman Soccer Club in Mooresville, is coached by Chip Warne and features players from Huntersville, Mooresville, Statesville and Hickory.
Steedman's team, which has been playing together for about four years, is based out of the Strikers Soccer Center in Huntersville. Steedman's family moved from Scotland and opened up the center 10 years ago.
Suzy Delaney, whose 11-year-old son, Harrison, is on the Huntersville team, said she was nervous about the team playing in the U.S. finals.
"I want them to do well," she said before the tournament. "They're not nervous. They're ready. They're excited about it."
Harrison started playing soccer when he was five, but Steedman said that some of the players on the team have been playing since they were three.
"I've got a highly competitive team," said Steedman. "All the boys are good."
The weekend wasn't all business for the players. On Friday there was a pep rally and on Saturday night the players got to go see the Major League Soccer match between D.C. United and Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium. They were even honored on the field during halftime.
The Lake Norman team was also honored by Keffer Volkswagen in Huntersville during a send-off party last Tuesday night.
Grant Couch, the son of LNSC Black's assistant coach Brian Couch, is specifically excited about one thing this weekend: "training with the D.C. United players." The MLS players held a special clinic Sunday morning for all the teams.
The 11-year-old, who has never been to the nation's capital before, is also excited about visiting the Smithsonian.
Both teams left on Thursday to give them time to take in the sights and "make a weekend out of it," said Steedman.
LNSC Black spent most of Friday sightseeing around the city.
The Junior Masters tournament is an effort by Volkswagen to increase soccer participation and awareness in the U.S. and give kids a chance to compete with teams from around the world.
Delaney likes the idea of the tournament, since soccer is often overshadowed by football and basketball.
"I think it's awesome," said Delaney. "I like that they're trying to put soccer up on a bigger pedestal."
The Fox Soccer Channel covered the event and even profiled a few of the players, including LNSC Black's Elijah Clark, who has no hands and limited use of his arms. The five-part series about the tournament will be televised on the Fox Soccer Channel in November.
"They've been wonderful," said Couch of the organizers of the tournament. "They're doing a great job."
More than anything, Brian Couch hopes that the players remember the weekend and make the most out of the unique experience.
"I think it's great," Couch said. "I grew up playing soccer and never had an opportunity like this."