by Jason Olson – ABC Newspapers
The 30th edition of the Schwan’s USA Cup will again turn Blaine and the greater Twin Cities into a soccer mecca July 11-19.
One of the many additions to this year’s tournament will be the Handshake for Peace.
The idea of a postgame gesture of sportsmanship was conceived by the Norwegian Football Association and Nobel Peace Center before FIFA included the move for the World Cup in Brazil.
USA Cup is the first international youth soccer tournament in the U.S. to adopt the symbolic act before games, after the Norwegian Premier League added it in 2012.
Nearly 10,000 Handshake for Peace wristbands will be given out during the July 15 opening ceremonies at the National Sports Center stadium in Blaine. During the opening ceremony, Norwegian Football Association’s official delegate Thor-Erik Stenberg will ask everyone to exchange a Handshake for Peace.
Jan Aage Fjortoft, a member of Norway’s 1994 World Cup team, will also be an official delegate to show support for showing respect between teams and officials.
Team captains will exchange a Handshake for Peace after the final whistle of all USA Cup games.
“As one of the largest international youth soccer tournaments in the world, Schwan’s USA Cup is embracing the Handshake for Peace and enthusiastically promoting it to all our players and coaches,” said Kara Radeke, USA Cup Director. “It will be especially meaningful and powerful for the youth players at USA Cup to share the same gesture of peace with the World Cup players in Brazil.”
Kjetil Siem ,general secretary of the Norwegian Football Association, hopes for the best as the tournament built, “a strong platform of fair play, respectful behavior, friendship and peace.”
July 16 will be Kick Cancer Day at USA Cup and will include matching donations for every shutout and goal around the four stadium-area fields.
The goal scorer or goalie that earned the shutout will be able to chose which organization will receive their donation. Each participant will also receive a special Kick Cancer gift.
Four cancer fighting organizations have been chosen to represent cancers that have affected many USA CUP participants including: breast cancer, children’s cancer, leukemia/lymphoma and colon cancer.
Each organization will have a field decorated with banners, flags, tents and more in the color of that organization.
Participants will also be able to make donations at the Kick Cancer headquarters or online with a special raffle prize and team prize for donations.
The North American Soccer League Spring Season champion Minnesota United FC will play two games during USA Cup including an NASL contest against Carolina, July 17 before a highly anticipated friendly July 19 game against English Premier League side Swansea FC. Both matches will start at 7 p.m.
The international flavor of the USA Cup continues to grow with seven Norwegian teams attending, along with newcomer Ghana and fellow African neighbors Nigeria and Uganda, the Cayman Islands and an increase in English teams. Many English referees take part in the tournament but few teams participated previously.
Many Latin American teams will be part of 18 countries represented including Mexico, Columbia and Costa Rica.
Daily episodes of Kick TV, the in-house produced and highly popular television recap show return as do social media efforts on Twitter (@usacupsoccer) and Facebook.
Jason Olson is at