Todd Haskins, who led Howard High to a state championship and was Gatorade National High School Player of the Year in 1990, is one of Columbia's players. Haskins scored eight goals and had three assists for the University of North Carolina (15-4-1) last fall.
The impetus for developing the league came when the NCAA ruled in January 1991 that collegiate players could no longer compete on outside teams during the academic year. Many college players had competed on club teams during the spring months.
"We should have done this a long time ago, but it took something stupid like what the NCAA did to get it going," said Jerry May, league president.
May believes lack of playing experience is one reason that the United States has not been competitive in international competition.
"Once our players reach high school and college age, the number of games they play per year becomes a small fraction of what European players the same age play," May said. "A college-age player in Europe plays 80 games per year and in the United States that number is 20."
The summer-league provides a 12-game, regular-season schedule, a playoff game between two division winners, cup play and a league championship game between the league champ and the cup champ. And some teams, including Columbia, have scheduled extra exhibition games.
The teams play on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons.
The interest in the league is continually growing.
"I'm still getting calls from players who want to participate," May said. "But we don't want to expand too much. It's better to have a surplus of players."
Rosters consist of 22 players, but only 16 can dress for a game. To avoid forfeits and no shows, teams must post a bond at the beginning of the season and pay $50 if they fail to bring at least 13 players to a game.
Three non-high school graduates are permitted on each team.
"This allows superior young players to benefit from older competition," May said. "The play here is much more physical, and physical play is the biggest adjustment a player must make between high school and college."
Two players older than 23 are also allowed.
"It helps to attract older coaches if they are also allowed to play once in awhile," May said.
He said that the Columbia teams have taken the league seriously and are well-organized.
In addition to the Columbia Under-23s, a younger team, the Columbia Bays, coached by Victor Gamaldo, also competes in the league.
The league commissioner is also a Columbian, Peter Keiller, whose son, Whitney, plays for the Columbia under-23s.
Chinapoo had nothing but praise for the league.
"It's well-organized, competitive and the guys enjoy it," he said. "I want to see creativity and freedom of expression and to be entertained. And I expect even our top players to play hard and develop."
The Columbia Under-23s roster includes Haskins, Keiller, Junior Armstrong, Seth Morrison, Andrew Morrison, Malcolm Grace, Dave Townsend, Tom Wolkow, Chris Sim, Sean Peay, Clint Peay, Brian Stodt, Dan McDonogh, Marc Nesbitt, Matt Nesbitt and Dave Rosenstein.
The Columbia Bays roster includes Kori Hunter, Jon Armstrong, Ryan Burke, Chris Williams, Todd Pettigrew, Charles Zimmerman, Robert Druter, Ryan Hudson, Erin Reid, Josh Smith, Sean Wray, Dan Klein, Seth Buchman, Rogers Lewis, Robert Bray, Shawn Adams and Chris Smith.
The league championship is scheduled for Aug. 15 at a site to be announced.