Playing soccer together is nothing new for Finksburg's Paul Binetti and Westminster's Paul Hajewski -- they've been doing it for years.
But this summer is going to be a very different story for the two athletes.
They won't be playing on the same Deer Park Field they've been playing on many Saturdays for the past six or so years.
And they won't be playing against the same Carroll County players with whom they've been playing in the Deer Park soccer program.
Instead, they will be traveling to Europe to play for a Mid-Atlantic Under-14 boys team comprised of players from the northeastern United States operated by Teams USA.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime and especially great going with such a good friend," said Hajewski, 14, who has known Binetti, 13, since elementary school.
Teams USA is a non-profit organization that promotes youth soccer programs throughout the country.
Each player selected to tour is responsible for paying their own fees -- often using fund-raisers to earn the money needed.
The tour costs from $3,500 to $4,000 for each of the Carroll youngsters.
They raised the money by selling raffle tickets and candy, receiving donations from Westminster organizations, cutting grass and getting alittle help from parents.
Hajewski, a goalkeeper, and Binetti, who plays all three midfield positions, learned they had made the team earlier this spring after trying out last November.
"We had around50 kids try out at Goucher (College in Towson, Baltimore County) in late November and I think four players were selected to the team," Hajewski said.
"They have really stressed that you must be in high physical condition to make the tour, and we've been doing a lot of advanced drills and running in practice."
The team began practicing on weekends this month in preparation of their trip.
"It's going pretty well," Binetti said. "The practices are a lot different from thepractices with Deer Park.
"We work less on basic skills and more on advanced drills, and we also do a lot more running," he said.
The tour will begin July 15 in Maastricht, Holland, where the team will spend one week at a soccer clinic organized by Foundation Winning Mood under the leadership of some of Holland's best professional coaches.
They will next travel to Hjorring, Denmark, July 21 and participate in the Dana Cup -- one of the largest youth tournaments in Europe featuring around 700 teams in nine age groups.
Last year, 24 countries were represented in Dana Cup play.
From there, it will be the Holland Cup in Amsterdam July 27, and they will wrap up the tour in Liege, Belgium, for the Liege Cup.
Binetti, who also plays lacrosse and basketball, is excited about his upcoming adventure.
"It will be a new experience for me," he said. "I've never even flown before.
"I have three friends who went over last year and they said they had a great time, so I'm really looking forward to it."
While Binetti and Hajewski have known each other for years, the tour also gave the pair an opportunity to make new friends as well.
"We've got a really good team with a lot of skilled players from all over. Everybody gets along really well, and it's going to be a lot of fun," Hajewski said.
Both youngsters will be entering ninth grade at Westminster High this fall and believe the tour will help prepare them forhigh school soccer.
"I think it will be a great experience and help me fitness-wise along with improving my skills," Binetti said.