With a few changes, USA CUP is set to welcome the world to Blaine for a 29th year

The 29th edition of USA CUP, the biggest youth soccer tournament in the western hemisphere, is upon us again.

Lighting of the caldron is part of the olympic-style opening ceremonies which is set for July 16 in Blaine. File photo
Lighting of the caldron is part of the olympic-style opening ceremonies which is set for July 16 in Blaine. File photo

Massive crowds will gather July 12-20 at the National Sports Center in Blaine (except for July 15, the lone off-day from competition). Those who have attended in past years might notice a few differences including a new presenting sponsor in Sport Ngin, a digital media company.

Sport Ngin redesigned the usacup.org website, built a free mobile app and will display a Sports Ngin Social Stream on a wall inside the Sports Expo Center. The new app allows players, coaches and fans to share photos and comments through Facebook. A selected few will have a chance to appear in on the Social Stream screen.

They will also host two photo contests where the public will choose the winner from a group of finalists.

More than 1,000 teams have registered from more than 17 states, 17 countries and 70 Minnesota communities in the U9 to U19 divisions. Eleven Minnesotan clubs have participated in every USA CUP, including the Blaine Soccer Club, Coon Rapids Soccer Association and Northern Lights Soccer Club (Anoka).

Most teams will take part in the Olympic-style opening ceremony inside the National Sports Center Stadium July 16.

Rock the Cup returns after the ceremony with a performance by local country artist Jeremiah James Korfe, who starred on the CMT reality series, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Minnesota United FC will face FC Edmonton in an exhibition match at 7:30 p.m. July 17. The game falls between the North American Soccer League’s split spring and fall seasons.

A medallion hunt will challenge visitors with clues each day July 16-19. Whoever finds the medallion, hidden somewhere on the National Sports Center campus will receive an iPad. Clues will be broadcast across all media platforms including the daily television show NSC TV, formerly called Kick TV, and the online daily newspaper, The Daily Kick.

A sand soccer tournament and street soccer will also take place at The Hub.

NSC Chief Communications Officer Barclay Kruse said they will continually update the tournament’s Facebook and Twitter pages with fun content in addition to official information regarding weather delays or schedule changes.

“We don’t post fun stuff when we’re under a weather delay,” Kruse said.

New this year is official retail partner Eastbay, the Wauseau, Wisc. based athletic equipment company will have an on-site store inside the Sports Expo Center.

Tony Sanneh, a St. Paul native whose 15-year professional soccer career included appearances with the United States national team (2002 FIFA World Cup), two Major League Soccer titles with DC United and time in the German Bundesliga, top division. He will offer a three-day, team-oriented camp July 16-18.

The Super Elite division, a weekend-only tournament (July 12-14) doubled in size from only U16 boys and girls to a U14 bracket. Among the elite teams taking part is the current top-ranked U16 boys’ team FC Golden State (Southern California).

“It’s going to be a pretty awesome opportunity for teams to get a chance to play them and for people to come out and watch,” Tom Soehn, NSC Director of Soccer Development and Recruiting. Soehn joined the NSC and USA CUP staff in January after more than 24 years in the professional ranks of North American soccer from player, coach and general manager. Before joining the staff in Blaine, Soehn was the general manager of the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer.

“They already had a great recruiting staff that had been here for a while and built some relationships nationally and internationally,” he said. “So there wasn’t a big learning curve because I’ve been involved in several aspects of the game but it’s a different dimension being in amateur soccer.”

Jason Olson is at
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