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Volunteer Groups Make USA CUP Happen

07/16/2017, 7:00pm CDT
By Mary Brickner, Media Intern

Volunteers are the backbone of Schwan’s USA CUP, and it couldn’t run without the hundreds of individuals that donate their time to the tournament.  Whether soccer is a lifelong passion or simply an afternoon pastime, large groups of volunteers are often what keep our tournament running the smoothest.


Members of Dark Clouds showing their support for Minnesota United while volunteering at Schwan’s USA CUP on Saturday morning.

This weekend, the Dark Clouds and Eagle Brook Church showed up in large numbers. Although these are two very different organizations, a passion for soccer and commitment to community service can be found within each.

The Dark Clouds is Minnesota professional soccer’s oldest support group, dating back to the Minnesota Thunder professional soccer team that was founded in 1990. Part of their mission is support Minnesota youth soccer through their Silver Lining program, which is what brought seven of their members to USA CUP this weekend.  

“Our mission is to give back to the community and support soccer in Minnesota,” Dark Clouds member Ben Krause-Gagne said. “We haven’t really volunteered at USA CUP in the past, and I’m not sure why, because it seems like the perfect partnership to us.”

The Dark Clouds were stationed out in the middle of the action, serving as field managers before heading to the Minnesota United FC vs Atlas FC international friendly on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium. They had a small taste of the international flair that makes USA CUP so unique.

“We knew there were a lot of international youth teams who come to the tournament, but for me, it was how many refs were international,” Krause-Gagne said. “We had a guy from England, we had a guy from Australia, there were a couple guys from Jamaica who were reffing, and obviously Americans who were reffing as well.”

With the National Sports Center and MNUFC having such a tight partnership, he hopes to make USA CUP volunteering an annual tradition.

“We’re planning on coming back next year now because I think it makes a lot of sense for us and the volunteering gig is pretty nice,” Krause-Gagne said. “We’re happy to help out.”

Eagle Brook Church, whose 27 volunteers were sprinkled all over NSC’s campus on Sunday as field managers, has six church campuses across the Twin Cities, including one in Blaine. They often seize opportunities to help out in the community, but for one volunteer in particular, USA CUP was a homecoming that she couldn’t pass up.

“I actually coached in the very first USA CUP when it was Sons of Norway,” Mary Picotte said. “I’ve kind of been out of it for a while, so when I saw this opportunity, I had to hop on and take the challenge.”

Picotte played, coached and reffed soccer many years ago. She seems to feel right at home in her field manager tent, although she can’t help but notice a few changes to the tournament over the past 30 years.


Mary Picotte, who came to volunteer with Eagle Brook Church, hangs out in her field manager tent with another USA CUP volunteer.

“It’s obviously quite a bit larger,” she said. “There’s a lot more teams from around the world, and the competition is top notch.”

As has come to be expected, Picotte’s morning at USA CUP connected her from places all across the globe.

“I met one of the referees here that is from Canada, and he’s done some reffing in so many different places,” she said. “It’s really awesome to hear.”

Whether you’re a longtime attendee or a fresh face at USA CUP, volunteering offers a unique perspective into the tournament that’s full of colorful characters and international flavor.

Tag(s): July 16, 2017