Full Circle At Schwans USA Cup
Life turned full circle at Schwans USA Cup for Kansas City Wizards goalkeeper Chris Konopka this week when he returned Blaine, MN to take part in an exhibition game between the Wizards and the Minnesota Thunder of the USL.
It was seven years ago this month, during the summer of 2000, when Konopka and his Jersey Shore Boca U16 boys team took on the world at the USA Cup, which is thought to be the largest youth soccer tournament in the Western Hemisphere.
Konopka and his Boca team competed in eight games over six days against some of the top youth club teams from around the globe and advanced to the U16 Championship game before losing 3-1 to FC Sollerod from Denmark.
Tuesday night, the former Boca standout returned to play at the USA Cup again, this time as a professional for the MLS Wizards who defeated the Thunder 5-0 in front of 7,241 lively fans at the National Sports Center.
“It's been real fun coming back here as a pro after being here as a kid just a few years ago,” Konopka said after the game, as he wandered over to a group of youth players who were chanting his name from the fence surrounding the field.
“I remember being one of those guys. We had a great time here.”
Konopka played the second forty-five minutes of the exhibition match against the Thunder allowing no goals while making two saves.
Over 16,000 athletes on 1,006 teams from 25 states and 20 countries are participating in this year’s Schwan’s USA Cup. The event is Minnesota’s largest out-of-state annual tourism event, with an expected $17 million out-of-state economic impact.
Attendance averages over 25,000 each day of the tournament.
Konopka, who starred for four years for Providence College in Rhode Island, became the first player ever in Friar history to be drafted by a MLS team when he was selected by the Wizards in the 3rd round of the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft in January.
A veteran of Jersey Shore Boca Soccer Club, Konopka was a member of Boca’s youth system, Super Y-League, U20 and U23 teams throughout his career as well as a member of Boca’s Premiere Development League (PDL) team in 2003.
Now, as he embarks on his professional career, he can reflect on how life has turned full circle at Schwans USA Cup.
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