In Target USA CUP’s 35-year history, the tournament has seen a lot of faces from around the world. However, two former USA CUP players are back at this year’s tournament—this time, in a coach’s uniform.
Mark Abboud and Shayne Griffin paraded with their teams, Minnesota Thunder Academy (MTA) girls’ U9 and Milton Magic boys’ U15, as a maximum-capacity crowd energetically cheered at the 2019 Opening Ceremony Monday.
“The Opening Ceremony took me back to 1985,” said Mark Abboud, head coach of MTA girls’ U9 team. “To me, it feels like I’m a kid again. We’re trading pins, meeting people from other places. It’s just the same to me.”
Abboud played in the first Target USA CUP tournament in 1985 with his U14 Rochester Arrows team. His father, who also coached the team, was one of the organizers who worked with the Sons of Norway to bring the tournament in life. Abboud vividly remembers playing against a Hungarian team in the 1985 tournament because it was the first time he played against an international team.
“We went down 3-0 within a blink to start the game,” said Abboud. “We battled back after that to win 4-3. That is definitely one of my top memories from growing up.”
From 1985 to 1989, Abboud played in the Target USA CUP, eventually moving on to play collegiately at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minn. USA CUP wouldn’t be the last time Abboud would play against international competition. After playing one season with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Abboud played overseas for two seasons in Belgium and France. Despite having a prolific professional career across multiple continents, Target USA CUP still fondly sits in Abboud’s memories.
Abboud also professionally played eight years for the Minnesota Thunder. Even with the Thunder, he still remained involved with the tournament.
Abboud’s coaching history at Target USA CUP lasts more than a decade. Abboud began coaching in 2000 and brought teams to the tournament for a decade. After taking a break from coaching club, he is back at the 2019 tournament for the first time since 2010—this time coaching his daughter.
“I brought my team here not to necessarily win it, but to expose our players and parents there’s more soccer than what we see in our backyard in Minnesota,” said Abboud. “It shows the girls that this is the world’s game.”
Griffin hopes to go two-for-two at Target USA CUP
Shayne Griffin is back at Target USA CUP for the first time since 1992. As a member of the Chinguacousy boys’ U14 team from Ontario, Griffin won the tournament that year, creating a memorable experience.
Griffin now coaches the Milton Magic boys’ U15 team from Milton, Ontario. Despite not participating in a Target USA CUP tournament in 27 years, Griffin’s goals at the tournament still remain the same. He wants to win it all, again.
“It was probably the most memorable soccer experience I’ve ever had,” said Griffin. “It was the first time playing against international teams. I remember playing against a team from England in the semi-finals and then beating an Alaskan team in the championship.”
Griffin’s Milton Magic team seems to be on the right path at the tournament so far. The team was 2-0 as of Wednesday night, and has outscored its components 24-1. Winning isn’t something new to the Magic, however. Griffin says the team won the providential championship last year, equivalent to a state tournament, and travels to large showcase tournaments.
Griffin’s experience at the 1992 tournament played a big role in bringing his Milton Magic team back to Blaine. The upscale Opening Ceremony combined with a noticeable international presence sold the team. This year is the first time any Milton Magic team has played in the tournament.
“Other than my team, our club brought two other teams as well,” said Griffin. “Me and the other club director already plan on bringing all of the other teams to tournament next year.”
Griffin said his team went to Mall of America this week and plans on attending tonight’s Minnesota United game against Aston Villa.
Shayne Griffin and Mark Abboud’s vivid memories from Target USA CUP as players illustrates the tournament’s ability to create memories that last longer than playing careers.