USA Cup kicks it up a notch with the Webby Roseanne Pereira, Minnesota Public Radio
The USA Cup youth soccer tournament is underway at the National Sports Center in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Blaine.
Twenty-one countries are represented in the mix, including teams as far away as Australia, Japan, and Tunisia.
Those players may be far from home, but this year, the USA Cup is connecting participants and their fans in new ways.
Blaine, Minn. — The players and parents at the USA Cup love soccer. With over 50 fields and games everywhere, there's plenty of excitement outdoors.
But walk into a big red tent known as the Puma lounge and you'll quickly see there's something else players get a kick out of technology.
Music pumps through the tent as kids play soccer video games and use their fancy footwork for dance, dance revolution. At one corner, computers are set up cafe style on tables so players can check e-mail. That's what drew in Christian Jasso, a 14 year old member of the as yet undefeated Roundlake United.
"We finished at 10 and had nothing to do so we came over here," says Jasso. "We're just chilling, check on MySpace."
Jasso can talk to his friends back in Illinois through MySpace. His teammate, Victor Sanchez can, too.
"Yeah, we do MySpace. [I'm] talking to my friend, Carla," giggles Sanchez.
The boys say that their friends want to know if they won their games. But now, fans won't have to get the play by plays through MySpace. Instead, they can view entire games on the Web.
Doug Erlien, operations manager for local Web company Crystal Clear Sports, says his firm will offer over 200 games live on the web on a pay-per-view basis.
"You're watching a game on our website that's happening 20 or 30 seconds delayed" says Erlien. "So a team or fan over in England could watch their team in the U.S. and basically be watching it in real time. It's amazing."
The games are also archived. Erlien says that could be useful if college coaches watch the games when they're looking to recruit players.
"If you think about it, five years ago, this wasn't even a pipe dream," says Erlien. "Where you could take an event, doesn't matter what it is, in this case, we're talking USA Cup soccer, put it on the web, and everyone around the globe can watch it."
That same reasoning is behind another offering at the USA Cup this year. Go to the Web and you can find this:
"Hi, I'm Mike Woodley and this is Kick TV and I'm your host. This is the video journal for the Schwan's USA Cup and we're doing this every day and having some fun."
Kick TV is free each day on the USA Cup Web site and presents highlights from the day's activities. Taylor Kruse is one of its producers. He says they know some folks are watching.
"We've been putting up the videos on YouTube. Everybody knows it. Our video for yesterday got just under 2,000 views, so people are watching it," Kruse says.
In the early afternoon, the Kick TV crew heads out to tape another segment.
"We're here at the pin-trading area where kids gather and they bargain trying to get their favorite pin," booms Scott Clasen into the camera.
Clasen interviews some teammates from Mahtomedi who are checking out the pins.
"What's the coolest pin you've gotten so far?" "Guatemala and Brazil and, like, Mexico," the girls respond.
Some parents joke that Kick TV is their kids' big break in the media -- where they can be stars not just on the field, but in the public eye, or at least the hundreds, if not thousands, of people watching on the Web.
The USA Cup continues through Saturday at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
- All Things Considered, 07/19/2007, 5:55 p.m.