Local teams compete in Schwan's USA Cup
The Two Harbors Under-14 and Under-16 summer league teams traveled to the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota to compete in the Schwan's USA Cup. The teams, ranging in age from twelve to sixteen, played five games over the course of a week.
"It was really great, just the heavy focus on the sport," said Brice Hanson, the coach of the U16 team. "They had the ability to play really good teams from other countries and interact with other players."
The 29th annual soccer cup, which started July 15, included over five hundred teams from twenty states and seventeen countries, and is the largest international youth soccer tournament in the Western Hemisphere.
"It's a pretty big deal," said Janelle Jones, the mother of one of the players.
"The atmosphere is really exciting," Hanson enthused.
Sarah Fjeran, a player on the U16 team, said that her favorite parts of the tournament were winning, team bonding and the opportunity to log hours on the field.
"We didn't have a lot of substitutes, so everyone got a lot of playing time," Fjeran said. "We have a younger team and we got a lot of experience."
Costing about $3,000, the teams' participation was funded mostly by fundraising efforts and local sponsorships. The teams raised funds with the help of Betty's Pies and Subway. Local businesses, including North Shore Mining, the Two Harbors Federal Credit Union, and the North Shore Rotary Club, donated money and the American Legion provided American flags for the opening ceremonies.
The tournament began with an Olympic-style parade and opening ceremonies. The teams carried one large American flag, and each player held smaller individual ones.
"It was really exciting and it was great that our whole team got to experience it together," Fjeran said of the tournament.
Although three players received injuries and one left for vacation halfway through the tournament, Hanson said that the teams did very well.
"It's good to have the exposure to a more physical and fast-paced game," he said. Fjeran agreed.
"It was good for our team. We got a lot of experience," she said.
At the tournament, the teams were also given an opportunity to see a professional soccer game, an experience that is not readily available in Two Harbors.
"It was nothing like I've ever seen before," said Fjeran. "I learned a lot."
The players, after an intense tournament and summer league, will be preparing for the fall season with their junior varsity and varsity teams. Fjeran hopes that they will do better than last year, despite the young age of their team. Hanson is optimistic.
"It's really exciting to see how it will turn out," Hanson said of the season.
Sponsors that made the tournament possible for the teams were Cleveland Cliffs-Northshore Mining, Apartment Advisors, Frontier Communications, Two Harbors Federal Credit Union, Sonju, CL&P, North Shore Rotary Club, North Shore Architectural Antiques, American Legion, Lyle Northey and Phil Strom.