The cheering section for the CR United Strikers was out in force at the Schwan's USA Cup on Wednesday. The team from Coon Rapids faced a team from Mexico. Coon Rapids parent, Jankeh Bojang, kept the crowd lively as she shouted and cheered from the sidelines.
“Well, they've been working so hard. They've beat a lot of teams that they've played with. Yeah, we are so proud of them,” she said.
Twenty different states, 20 different countries, and four Canadian provinces made up this year's roster for the massive annual tournament at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Jackie Fabel, another CR United Strikers parent, sees the tournament as a great opportunity to grow.
“I think it shows them a different dynamic to the game and how it's different internationally versus in the US. And I think they'll definitely learn where they can improve,” she explained.
For the players, it's a window into the world away from home.
“Just everybody's different, they have a different way of playing,” said 11-year-old Gavin Stevenson.
“It was kind of funny, they could understand everything we were saying but we couldn't understand what they were saying.”
But it wasn't just a day of differences, the players found common ground too. Sebastian Bacelis, an 11-year-old player from Mexico, said one highlight of the tournament is coming together with players from other countries.
“For me, good because that means that we're bonding and that's cool for me,” he said.
Another CR United player, Ousman Touray, agreed.
“It's really awesome playing in USA cup because the other teams that we've been playing are nice, they're physical, they're passionate, and they want to win this just like we want to win it,” he explained.
“And it's just a blast!”
Several Coon Rapids teams competed in the week-long tournament. Schwan's USA Cup makes quite an economic impact as well. Organizers estimate that the tournament generates roughly $36 million from hotel and restaurant visits, tourism and other local tax revenue.
Jennifer Anderson reporting