BY Tim Hennagir – ABC NEWSPAPERS
Minnetonka-based Soccer Express is no longer managing retail operations at USA Cup, the world’s largest youth soccer tournament annually held in Blaine.
Owner Dave Jenson recently confirmed his locally owned store ended its 29-year retailer of choice relationship with the National Sports Center (NSC). Jenson is head coach of the Edina varsity soccer team.
“We went back and forth with Puma [the lead sponsor] regarding a couple of ideas, and at the end of the day, they decided to go another direction,” he said.
Barclay Kruse, NSC chief communications officer, said Puma decided to bring in Eurosport, a North Carolina-based company, to manage retail operations.
A much larger Puma World Store was located in the newly opened 21,000-square-foot NSC Sports Expo Center during the USA Cup, held recently.
“The space is dedicated to them now through the end of July,” Kruse said. “The company that serves as the USA Cup lead sponsor chooses the retailer.”
During the past 29 years, Jenson said he’s hired more than 2,000 kids to work retail at USA Cup. Each year, he would have 70 employees filling event orders.
“I put a 1,000 hours a year into USA Cup,” Jenson said. “You get kids who have never had a job before, and year after year, many of them would come back”
In 1978, Jenson began selling Minnesota Kicks pro soccer merchandise out of his dorm room at the University of St. Thomas.
During his early years in the business, he noticed it was nearly impossible to find soccer gear in the Twin Cities. That’s when Soccer Express was born.
The USA Cup relationship began a short time later.
“Paul Erickson [Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission executive director] came to me during a soccer camp for him and asked if I had a store,” Jenson said.
The next summer, Jenson set up a 10-foot by 10-foot tent and serve 70 teams. During his years at USA Cup, Jenson’s signed 15 different retail contracts.
“I have no hard feelings on the whole deal, [with Puma], but I’m going to miss working USA Cup and having a group of employees out there this year,” he said. “I always tried to make the USA Cup better and better, because it has that international flavor.”