By Matthew Daivs
Youth soccer players from New Brighton, Mounds View and surrounding communities will compete with North Suburban Soccer Association teams at the upcoming USA Cup.
“I think it’s pretty cool, and I’m excited for it,” said Kennedy Scott, a midfielder for the NSSA girls U10 team that will compete.
The annual international tournament draws teams to the National Sports Center in Blaine from around the U.S. and world. In its 33rd year, the event has an anticipated 1,168 teams coming for the July 14-22 tournaments. The teams comes from 15 countries and 17 states. The NSC has 50 soccer fields to host the plethora of games.
Chloe Nuss, a midfielder for the NSSA U10 team, had gone once before and enjoyed seeing teams fro other nations such as Sweden.
“It was different and cool,” said Nuss, a fifth grader at Turtle Lake Elementary in Shoreview.
Scott, a first-timer for the USA Cup, said she’s never played against a team from further away than Mahtomedi. A fifth grader at Valentine Hills Elementary in Arden Hills, Scott said she looks forward to the opening ceremonies with all the players on July 18.
NSSA U10 coach Sarah Stenson said she makes it a priority to bring her team to the USA Cup each year.
“Each year the tournament gets bigger and better,” Stenson said. “The upbeat and competitive atmosphere is what draws players and families in each year.”
Nuss has confidence in the competition part.
“I think we can do pretty well,” Nuss said about her team.
NSSA boys soccer player Ema Clarke, a student at Bel Air elementary in New Brighton, hopes his team can make the finals. He said “every single year, our team has gotten to the semifinals” but lost before.
Players get to exchange pins with other players during the week and take photos together after games. They also get to interact with referees from other parts of the world such as China, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Romania.
“As a coach, you get to help your players see that soccer is universal language and game that is played all over the world and when players get a chance to be exposed to that it ignites the love of the game that much more,” Stenson said. “It is not every day, 10-year-olds get an opportunity to play soccer against a team from Shanghai.”
NSSA coach Jacob Fast, who has been taking teams to the tournament for the past seven years, likes the challenge of international soccer for himself in the players. He said it makes him a better coach and his players better too.
“I value the opportunity to compete with some of the best players and coaches in the world,” Fast said.
The USA Cup has literally seen some of the world’s best such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United or Eric Miller of the Colorado Rapids. Local notable alumni include Minneosta United FC director Manny Lagos and defender Brent Kallman. Former Minnesota United FC player Brian Kallman also competed in the USA Cup as did former women’s team USA goalie Brianna Scurry.