“We are thrilled to have players back on campus. It’s great to do USA Cup again, it feels like things are almost back to normal,” said National Sports Center spokesperson Sara Soli. “There are no international teams this year or referees, which definitely changes the flavor of USA Cup.”
It’s still an event charged with enthusiasm from players like Angel Mendez Lopez from Richfield.
“It’s different because of its diversity and it’s a different level of soccer here. It feels special,” said Mendez Lopez.
Local hotels and restaurants are glad to see the return of families and most of the dollars visitors usually spend during tournament week.
“We are very excited to participate in USA Cup this year,” said Barney Smith, a soccer dad from Moline Illinois. “You know we were looking forward to it last year, but with COVID of course, we were unable to do that.”
For Smith and his family, USA Cup is a kick-off to a longer Minnesota vacation.
“This is definitely a financial endeavor here. We’re going to spend some money here in Minnesota. We’ve been up here before to the Mall of America, but we’re really looking forward to seeing more of Minnesota.”
It’s the kind of sports-based tourism the hospitality industry missed in 2020.
“Travel is back with a vengeance and that’s what it feels like,” said Forogh Amini who manages the Best Western Plus just blocks from the National Sports Center.
While he misses the players from Brazil that he’s come to know over the years, Amini says events like USA Cup are part of an important economic rebound.
“Our community needs these teams to come to this part of the state and play and enjoy other things besides [just] staying at a hotel, restaurants, gas stations, things like that.”
USA Cup is the biggest event the National Sports Center organizes. They’re happy the tradition can continue in 2021.
“USA Cup is all about the tradition of soccer. It’s about the world’s game, if you will,” said Sara Soli. “Really these kids have played here for more than 30 years and they just celebrate wheat they love and that’s soccer.”
Blaine city officials say the city prides itself in being a sporting community. Also, the tens of millions of dollars spent during both the USA Cup and the 3-M Open in July are very important for a hospitality industry looking to rebound.