A Cup to remember

Photo courtesy of Schwan’s USA Cup. Schwan’s USA Cup is held every year in Blaine, Minn., and draws young soccer players from around the world. Established by the Sons of Norway, the soccer tournament is based on the annual Norway Cup in Oslo.

Schwan’s USA Cup 2012 draws near

Kelsey Larson

Copy Editor

Summer is in full swing, and that means green grass, blue skies, and kids kicking the soccer ball around on the lawn.

At the Schwan’s USA Cup, it means about 14,000 kids from 20 states and 17 countries kicking a soccer ball around on the green fields of the National Sports Center soccer complex, the world’s largest amateur sports facility in Blaine, Minn.

The youth soccer tournament, now the world’s fourth largest, was created in 1985 by the Sons of Norway. With only 69 teams participating, the idea was originally to do a “soccer exchange” with teams from Minneapolis and teams from Norway. The event was modeled after the Norway Cup, and still has close connections with that tournament. “We consider [The Sons of Norway] our founders…they are part of the USA Cup family,” says Barclay Kruse, Associate Director of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission and Chief Communications Officer for the National Sports Center. “The tournament’s roots are definitely in Norway.”

The tournament grew and evolved fast, and with the 600-acre, 52-field National Sports Center built in 1990 the USA Cup gained notoriety. In 2007 the tournament attracted over 1,000 teams for the first time, and has played host to several visiting soccer celebrities including Pele, Mia Hamm and Landon Donovan, among others.

July 13 – 21, 2012 will be the USA Cup’s 28th year. Each year the USA Cup has the biggest annual economic impact in the state of Minnesota – even bigger than the “great Minnesota get-together,” otherwise known as the State Fair. Despite its importance to the Minnesotan economy, it doesn’t get the press hype the State Fair and other events seem to inspire. “It doesn’t get the media and publicity it deserves. It’s youth sports – which doesn’t get on the front page. And it’s soccer – which doesn’t get the media attention it deserves as an international sport,” says Kruse.

The USA Cup is not only an economic boon, but also a memorable cultural exchange for kids. “There’s no other American youth soccer tournament like the USA Cup,” says Kruse. Indeed, besides soccer games, the week includes clinics and workshops, activities, a bike race on the National Sports Center’s Velodrome, activities on the ice in the giant ice arena, and even social events such as dances. “We work really hard to create a full tournament experience that goes way beyond soccer,” says Kruse, and indeed, most kids come away from the event with memories that will last a lifetime. Adults who played in the tournament as kids today try their best to get their own kids to the USA Cup. “We hear the same thing from adults all the time – ‘it’s been a goal of mine to bring my team to the USA Cup,’” says Kruse.

This year, there will be eight teams from Norway participating in the USA Cup. “Typically the teams from Norway are pretty good,” says Kruse. Among the participants: Four boys’ teams from Floro (this club is celebrating their 100th anniversary, so they are celebrating by attending USA CUP this year); one boys’ team from Follo SFK in Oslo; one girls team from Bærums Verk IF near Oslo; one girls team from Bøler IF, Oslo; and one girls team from IL Bjarg in Bergen.

“Norway is one of the most loyal attending countries,” says Kruse.

The Schwan’s USA Cup is a unique and memorable experience for kids and adults alike. If you can’t make it this year, check out their website at www.usacup.org. Follow along with Twitter, Facebook, and the tournament’s own channel, Kick TV, where ten different episodes catch up with players and coaches across the span of the tournament.

This article originally appeared in the June 22, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.