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Posted on: July 15, 2022

USA Cup Welcomes Back International Competitors


There are over 950 teams playing in this year's USA Cup at the National Sports Center in Blaine. The largest youth soccer tournament in North America generates about $25 million for the local economy. The tournament welcomed back international teams for the first time since 2019.

"When you bring people from different countries it adds more energy, vibrancy,” USA Cup spokesperson, Sara Soli said. “You walk the campus and hear all the different languages." 

Girls and boys teams from 18 different countries compete against U.S. teams from 22 states, including Minnesota.

For coach Rudolf Balazhynets, who coaches the 16U boys team from Ukraine, getting visas to play soccer in the United States was something unthinkable just weeks ago. 

"We have here 55 people,” Balazhynets said. “A soccer team of boys and girls 14U team, plus coaches and parents. So, it's kind of really tough to get [visas] in the war time."    

The team was helped by two friends from Minnesota on a mission. Edgar Madsen, with his friend and former college roommate, Peter Wohler, traveled to western Ukraine to bring back a soccer team.

"One of our biggest challenges was getting visas for the boys,” Madsen said. “And USA Cup helped us. And the U.S. Embassy was very very gracious in Latvia."

Coach Rudolf also happens to be a pastor. Beyond coaching soccer, he has a bigger mission to bring badly needed supplies back to Ukraine. 

“This is not just about soccer. It’s to build relationships and bring more hope for Ukraine nation,” Balazhynets said.

The Hope for Ukraine Youth Refugee Tour will make stops in Duluth and Rochester next week. They plan to return to the National Sports Center on Monday, July 25 for a farewell celebration. For more on how you can help, go to SourceMn.org/UkraineYouth.

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