The world's best high school football players are coming to South Florida.
USA Football, the sport's national governing body on youth and amateur levels, will hold the first "Team USA vs. The World" game in Ft. Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium on Jan. 30, 2010. The game will match USA Football's 2010 Junior National Team - 45 of the country's top high school seniors - against a "World" team composed of the best players aged 19 and under from outside the United States, spanning four continents.
The head coach of USA Football's team is Chris Merritt, head coach of Miami Christopher Columbus High School. Merritt was the 2009 USA Football Junior National Team's defensive backs coach that earned a gold medal in Canton, Ohio, this past July in the eight-nation International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Junior World Championship. The tournament was the first junior world championship in football history, drawing more than 40,000 fans to Canton's Fawcett Stadium during the course of four game days. Merritt has led his Columbus H.S. Explorers to district titles in 2001, '03, '04, '05, '07 and '08, including undefeated regular seasons in '05, '07 and '08. In the past seven seasons, he has helped more than 30 of his student-athletes reach Division I or I-AA college football. Merritt, who owns a 74-20 (.787) record at Columbus High School, will lead a staff of nine American high school head coaches from five states.
Jan Jenmert, head coach of Sweden's junior national football team, will lead the 45-man "World" roster. Jenmert's 12-man coaching staff spans seven IFAF member nations on four continents.
With national football federations in existence worldwide for decades, IFAF, the sport's international federation, was created in 1998 to organize and further develop the game through global cooperation and competition. IFAF is comprised of 57 member nations on five continents, all of which possess national federations dedicated solely to American football. USA Football is the United States' delegate to IFAF.
Both teams will practice in Ft. Lauderdale during the week of the game. The NFL has designated the "Team USA vs. The World" game as an official Pro Bowl Week event. The Jan. 30 contest will kick off at 1 p.m. ET, immediately following AFC and NFC All-Star practices at Lockhart Stadium, which will be open to the public. Fans will not be charged admission to attend the multi-national showdown.
"USA Football shares in the enthusiasm for January's game with the dozens of national football federations across the globe," said USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck. "This is a significant event for the sport's continued international popularity and it will be an incredible experience for our players and coaches to represent the United States in America's favorite game."
USA Football's roster will be hand-selected through research and film study and will be announced before Jan. 1. In addition to being among the country's top players, these young men will represent football's inherent values of teamwork and leadership befitting a national team.
"On behalf of IFAF and the 57 countries on five continents that love and play organized football, we are ecstatic to have the world's best high school-aged players compete in a great football setting like South Florida amid the NFL's Pro Bowl and Super Bowl," said IFAF President Tommy Wiking. "Jan. 30 will be an exciting day for our game on many levels. The players and coaches will hail from various countries and cultures, but they're united by a passion for American football. It will be an exciting celebration of the sport."
The "Team USA vs. The World" game will be played under NCAA rules with 12-minute quarters.