Schwan’s USA CUP won the battle with Mother Nature Tuesday evening, and Opening Ceremonies went off without a hitch despite a few passing storms leading up to the big show. The skies cleared and the sun was shining, setting the tone for what turned out to be the perfect evening of intermixing cultures, languages and experiences.
The Sons of Norway Founder’s Award winners kicked off the evening. Last year’s winners Bill Neiss and Gary Leafblad presented the award to longtime referees Dan Bauman and Forster Davis. Soon after, the famous parade of teams began storming through the stadium, led by the Schwan’s Cares about Soccer Sweepstakes winners from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Lakeshore United FC U15 girls team.
Teams from all around the world proudly paraded in, sporting hats, scarves and other memorabilia from their home nations. All the way through, laughter and smiles were shared as players marched, danced and cheered their way through the stadium.
Canada brought a strong contingent, showcasing Canadian flags from head to toe. The Blizzard Soccer Club from Calgary, Alberta, was sporting some fun headwear as they marched in.
“Calgary is famous for their cowboy hats, so we had to represent,” Rebecca Sirrs, who plays on the Blizzard SC U15 girls team, said. “Everyone keeps asking to make trades for them, but we haven’t traded yet. Maybe if I get a good enough bribe.”
“It was amazing to see everyone from all those different places,” Amelia Watson, who also plays for Blizzard SC, said. “It was like a mini Olympics.”
As the National Anthem began, MN United FC players Ismaila Jome and Abu Dawnladi made a special guest appearance as color presenters, along with members of Jome’s hometown soccer club, the Northwest Kickers.
The U.S. Navy Leap Frogs parachute team was a major highlight, making a dramatic descent into the stadium equipped with a giant American flag and showing off a few tricks along the way. They were met by an excited crowd as they lit the USA CUP caldron and fireworks began exploding, marking the official beginning of USA CUP 2017.
“That was insane,” Braeden Miller, a local player who is guest playing with Alvante soccer club from Brazil, said. “There were kids behind me when the guys were coming straight down, like ‘Oh no, they’re going to land on us!’”
When DJ Mad Mardigan of the Minnesota Timberwolves took the stage, the real celebration began. Music was booming, lights were flashing and kids were interacting, a cultural experience that is entirely unique to USA CUP.
“This whole experience has been so awesome already,” Miller said. “That was like the icing on the cake. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like the rest of the week.”
Tag(s): July 18, 2017