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Cultivating World Cup fever in Summit County

Jason Starr

SUMMIT COUNTY – It’s an effort to get local soccer players to pay attention to the sport’s biggest event and to make sure they’ll always have an outlet to play locally.

The High Country Soccer Association is planning a two-day event around the finals of the World Cup, which runs through the entire month of June in Korea and Japan. It will be a celebration of the game at its highest level and a fund-raiser for the association’s youth and adult teams and leagues.

“It’s a way to support the association and also a way to enjoy the biggest deal in the sport,” said High Country Soccer founder Amy Machin-Ward.

The plan is to have an exhibition game in Breckenridge on June 29, the night before the World Cup final. It will be a non-competitive match with community celebrities, local soccer people and kids from the association’s youth competitive and school teams.

“There will be two really huge rosters with people just running in and out and just having fun,” Machin-Ward said. A party at Barkley’s in Frisco will follow.

Then, the morning of June 30, Barkley’s will host a finals viewing party on the big screen with brunch, door prizes and a raffle. The $10 entry fee ($5 for children) will go to soccer scholarships for kids in the association.

“We really need to continue to raise the funds to support our mission to include every person who wants to play,” Machin-Ward said.

The other benefit is that the event will encourage people to become better soccer fans. Not everyone, after all, is as dedicated as Machin-Ward – a former U.S. Team player who has every game of the past few World Cups on tape.

“It’s addictive,” she said. “It’s just a very high level of the game, and you don’t get to see that with the weekly (Major League Soccer) telecast.

“As a teaching tool, it’s the best. It’s the highest level of soccer in the world. I hope it inspires (people).”

This edition of the World Cup should be extra interesting in America because the U.S. men are fielding perhaps their best team ever. That is due in large part to the proliferation of the relatively new U.S. men’s pro league, the MLS, according to Machin-Ward.

“They have more young, talented players who have played extensively and played internationally,” she said. “And now, with the MLS, they have a place to hone their skills. As long as the MLS stays viable, we should continue to get better.”

The Americans begin with a match against Portugal on Wednesday that will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 3 a.m. Some games will be tape-delayed and broadcast during the day.


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