UNIONTOWN -- Three full days and parts of two others isn't very much time to put together a youth soccer team of players from all over the United States.
But Westminster High soccer coach Chuck Beaver enjoys that challenge -- and everything else that comes with putting together an under-16 team that left for Europe Wednesday to compete in the Gothia Cup in Sweden.
The group arrived in Carroll County last Saturday from California, Colorado, North Carolina, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A pair of Westminster High players, Chris Santella and Aaron Goldman, also made the 18-day trip, along with Westminster resident Jeff Link, who plays at Calvert Hall in Baltimore.
"It's interesting to see how 15 players can come together from six different states and play as well as they have in this short of a time. It's really starting to jibe," Beaver said Wednesday morning after the team completed its 11th practice in five days at Francis Scott Key High School.
The team had one practice last Saturday, followed by three-a-day practices Sunday through Tuesday, and one last morning practice on Wednesday before heading for Iceland Wednesday night out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
"We had two objectives coming into the first practice," Beaver said. "The first is to get to know one another, mixing and matching the players. The next is for me to evaluate what we have and see who works best with who. This group really came together in three days."
It's the fifth time Beaver has put together a team to play overseas. The trip, in cooperation with Sports Connection and the Maryland International Soccer Club, costs each player in excess of $2,000.
After a couple days of sightseeing in Iceland, the team will spend five days with a host family in Copenhagen, Denmark. The highlight of the trip will be playing in the Gothia Cup -- one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the world -- July 12-18 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The last time Beaver took a team to the event, two years ago, 45 nations were represented with more than 950 teams competing in a number of boys and girls age groups.
Link, a 15-year-old forward, played in the tournament a few years back with Team USA -- not affiliated with this year's team.
"Every country you can imagine was there," he said.
"We really have to go over there and prove ourselves. I think we're still generations behind, but soccer in the United States is starting to fly."
The Americans will go up against teams from Italy, Germany and Sweden in the first round. The top two teams will advance to the second round.
"Anyone would like to go over and win it all, but if we can get out of the first round of the Gothia Cup we'll be well satisfied," Beaver said.
Santella, a 15-year old sophomore at Westminster, is looking forward to the European experience.
"I'm hoping we can all learn something over there and prove U.S. can play the game," he said.
"Everyone [on the team] has a different style of how they play, but I think we've come together pretty well. We're just looking to have a good time and win some games."
Beaver added that the kids will get a lot more out of the trip than just soccer.
"It's a chance to tour Europe and meet a lot of new friends," he said.