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Andre Felipe dos Santos -- Schwan’s USA CUP’s version of a free agent

07/13/2012, 8:39pm CDT
By Madeline Greene

Soccer is a universal sport that is played around the world. And while most of the team’s in Schwan’s USA CUP, presented by PUMA bring full rosters to the tournament, each year USA CUP places approximately 150 individual guest players onto teams without full rosters. And that’s where the universal language of soccer creates some interesting placements.


Santos, in green, fights for possession against MN Thunder Academy player

“Being a guest player is a unique experience that is found at our tournament for both the teams and the individual players,” said Megan Thiel, the USA CUP intern that assists with the coordination of the guest player program. “I am kind of the matchmaker when it comes to placing the players on their teams for the tournament. I’ve talked to so many coaches that have used our program who wouldn’t have had full rosters without guest players. This allows the players to experience a tournament that they wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise.”

While guest players are common at USA CUP, there is one guest player who has been returning to the tournament year after year to show the world what he is made of. Andre Felipe dos Santos, a U19 player from Brazil, has been traveling to USA CUP since 2006. He doesn’t come with a team; he comes as an individual.

He first came to USA CUP with his school team, Colegio Santo Americo, who are currently playing in this year’s tournament. After two years of attending the tournament with his school, he decided that he would try the guest player program.

While he enjoyed participating in USA CUP, his first few years were not easy as it was hard to be away from Brazil and playing in other country. But as the years have progressed, Santos has found a true passion for the tournament and now plans his summer vacations around his trip to Minnesota.

“Now he has this feeling that he wants to be a guest player and he wants to be connected to players around the world,” said Santo’s mother, Carla. “At the beginning it was Mom and Dad’s desire. And now it is his desire to be here.”

Santos has played at many different tournaments with a variety of teams but something about USA CUP brings him back year after year.

“He has been in different tournaments but here he feels at home. At other championships people are just there to win, but here there is a different environment with people sharing different ideas and different experiences. He feels very comfortable here,” said Carla. “He is proud to be guest player.”

This weekend, Santos will be playing with the U19 West Fargo SC Renegades.

“We’ve used the guest player program before,” said West Fargo’s coach, Dan Doughtery. “It is a great idea because this is an international tournament and we want to bring that kind of flavor to our team. Not everybody can bring a full team but kids should be able to sign up and come out here to enjoy the tournament.”

Today was the first time Santos met Doughtery and his team. Santos explained that being a guest player makes him play harder so that he knows that he is not letting his new teammates down. “I am a little nervous but I kind of like that feeling,” said Santos.

Throughout his years with USA CUP, he has played with numerous teams including Full Force from Alaska, Minnesota Thunder Academy and now the West Fargo SC Renegades.

“My favorite part about this tournament is the international teams, plain and simple,” said Dougherty. “We can go to Wisconsin, we can go to Nebraska if we want to but seeing the international teams here is a blast.”

While his future plans are not set in stone, there is one thing that is for sure. Andre Felipe dos Santos will be in Minnesota for the 2013 USA CUP for his last year as an eligible player.

“It has been like home to me here,” said Santos. “It’s friendship, knowing other people from other countries and it has been great fun.”

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Tag(s): July 13, 2012