NJ Youth Soccer hosted about 700 guests at its 29th annual awards dinner at the Pines Manor in Edison last Friday, where it honored New Jersey players, teams, coaches, referees and volunteers for outstanding performances and contributions in 2016.

“NJ Youth Soccer provides the structure for more than 140,000 children to play soccer in urban, suburban and rural locations throughout our state,” NJ Youth Soccer president Evelyn Gill said. “The majority of our leadership – coaches, trainers, administrators – are comprised of volunteers who dedicate many hours of their time to make this organization a success.”

Gill went on to say there are thousands of coaches, parents and volunteers contributing throughout the year and, without them, the children would not have the excellent programs that are offered.

New Jersey native Christie Rampone, former captain of the U.S. national team and current captain of Sky Blue FC, was the keynote speaker. She won two Women’s World Cup championships and three Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s national team. Rampone is the only USWNT player who has played in five Women’s World Cups. Her 311 international caps are the second most all-time (men or women). She discussed her ties to NJ Youth Soccer, including her current role as coach of her daughter’s youth soccer team, as well as her experience with the national team and Sky Blue.

John Harkes was inducted into the NJ Youth Soccer Hall of Fame and recognized for his lifetime achievements in the game of soccer at the event.

Harkes is the current head coach of FC Cincinnati in the USL. Born in Kearny, he is a former U.S. national team midfielder who played youth and high school soccer with future national teammates Tony Meola and Tab Ramos. During his high school career, Harkes played in four NJSIAA championship matches and led his team to the 1984 Group 4 State Championship and a 24-0 record.

He was the first American ever to play in the English Premier League, and the second American to score at Wembley Stadium. Harkes is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, has appeared in two FIFA World Cups, and he won two MLS Cup championships with D.C. United. Harkes was unavailable to attend the dinner, but a filmed acceptance speech was shown.

The evening also acknowledged many of the state’s boys and girls U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series, Presidents Cup and Commissioners Cup team champions, as well as players selected for the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I ODP pool team.

The following honorees were presented with awards for their individual contributions:

Bob McNulty Coaches of the Year: Richard Guarnaccia Jr.

Recreation Program of the Year: Manalapan Soccer Club

Recreation Coach of the Year: Javier Caicedo

For Excellence in Years of Service: Arthur Vespignani & Gary Rambo

TOPSoccer Volunteers of the Year: Ryan Stefanick and Catherine McCarthy

Liesel Krehan Volunteer of the Year: Carol Cordiner

Youth Referees of the Year: Joseph Paolini and Lauren Small

Allan Sinclair Memorial Scholarship: Ashley Chipoletti and Alexander Marchesi

Jeanine Willis Scholarship: Anna Sasson and Walter Peregrim

Brett Fenster Memorial Scholarship: Kerri Crossnohere and Tyler Barna