Many organizations descend on Blaine every year for Target USA CUP, but few are as ingrained in the tournament as the SOCCER.COM staff. Members of the online soccer gear store’s sales team set up a pop up location in the Adidas store selling apparel such as national team jerseys, game balls and footwear. And with the incredible number of people that come through the tournament each day, the employees are constantly working throughout their 9-6 schedule.
But Marketing and Sales Manager Neil Forsyth, 25, said that’s actually a step back in terms of workload. The SOCCER.COM team travels all over the country setting up shop at youth soccer tournaments and other events, most of which have them working longer hours – at times outside in the heat. Summer is by far the group’s busiest time, when they do the majority of their over 50 events per year.
“I’m basically gone from June 9 to August 7 … and all in a carry-on bag,” Forsyth said, grinning.
That’s the main thing you need to know about the team, though: they’re usually smiling. Despite the busy travel schedule and days spent constantly working, they find ways to keep everything light-hearted. In fact, they seem to find joy in the grind. Fernando Lisboa, 21, who sells footwear and national team jerseys during USA CUP, said his favorite part of the job was the constant travel.
“I’m basically always away from home because I’m from Brazil,” he said. “It’s nice because I get to go to a lot of places I would have never been and I’m assuming I would never go to if it wasn’t for this. You’re always away, but at the same time you’re always in new places with cool things to do.”
An enjoyable work atmosphere is important to staving off the malaise, too. After all, travel is much more fun when you have friends around to share it with. It’s a young staff; Forsyth said he is the oldest. Having a staff composed entirely of young, energetic people helps that team dynamic.
“We have days off in between so it’s a good time,” Marketing and Sales Manager Blake Stewart, 24, said. “In Denver we’ll go hike some mountains, in San Diego we get to go to the beach. It’s kind of a work hard play hard kind of thing with a nice vacation in there.”
The use of “we” there is important; according to Stewart, the team is pretty much always together while out on the road. You might think they would get tired of each other as they approach the end of a long travel stretch, but they showed no signs of exasperation.
“We’re always happy, always making fun of each other … That’s the best part,” Lisboa said. “Neil and Blake, they’re not bossy; they tell us what to do but they joke around and that’s really cool.”
That laid-back nature is evident at all times and even when things go wrong. Stewart was talking about how they can print custom names onto shirts and jerseys on command and how there can be issues when the staff can’t read a customer’s handwriting. As if on cue, an incorrect jersey got sent back.
“That happens a lot … and Neil always gets really adamant about that because we asked everyone back there what letter it was,” Stewart said, pausing to laugh as Forsyth jokingly jumped up and slammed his feet into the ground in mock frustration.
The nature of the job creates some pretty memorable experiences, especially at Target USA CUP. Forsyth, Stewart and Lisboa all said they had fond memories of working the tournament. Last year, former Minnesota United midfielder Ibson, a Brazilian legend, came to the store for an autograph session. Forsyth joked that the Brazilian interns “fawned” over Ibson.
“He’s a really famous player in Brazil so it was really cool to meet him,” Lisboa said. “He was really nice to me. That was a nice experience.”
But it’s the time spent together that sticks out the most. Stewart brought up a time after the store cleared out last year when some of the USA CUP interns came by to play games.
“We came up with “Trash-can-ball” or something like that where we grabbed cans from around the facility and everyone had their own that was like a goal,” Stewart said. “We’d try to throw stuff over the truss and try to score. We find fun ways to kill the time and bond with each other.”
Those fun times make it much easier to get through the day, according to Lisboa.
“We work a good amount of hours and sometimes you get tired, but I want to do it again every time. I don’t get tired of this environment.”