Target USA CUP is known for its ability to bring diverse people together to introduce attendees to new cultures, but it’s rare that the diversity comes from within one family. That is the case with the DeSarros, a family from Red Lodge, Montana which has become a staple of the guest players roster at the tournament. Parents Amanda and Matthew have seven children – two biological, four internationally adopted and one domestically adopted – and all of them play soccer. Five of them are in action at this year’s Target USA CUP.
Amanda, 42, is the co-director of a non-profit called Hope Branch International, which has projects in Montana, Colombia and Ethiopia, the areas where their adopted children are from. The oldest is Dominic, 16, adopted from Colombia when he was 11 months old. Another couple adopting from Colombia told the DeSarros about USA CUP, and since then all of the children old enough to play have joined international teams at the tournament. It’s an annual tradition within the family.
“It has been one of the highlight of their childhoods,” Amanda said. “It’s been incredible to see that they get to meet children from all over the world; it’s the highlight of their summer. They’ve made friendships with children from South America and Africa and Europe, and the United States as well.”
After Dominic, who is playing this year for a team from Ecuador, the DeSarros had their first biological child, Cecilia, who is also 16 and played for a Tanzanian team last year. Two years later they had Remington and adopted Bella from Ethiopia. Hadassah, 12, and Gideon, 10, made two more children from Ethiopia. Finally, 2-year-old Benjamin, adopted from Montana, rounds out one of the cooler families you’re going to meet.
Soccer has become a unifying force in the family. The children are close anyway, but it certainly helps that they all have a shared interest they can participate in together. Dominic mentioned that since he’s an offensive midfielder and Remington is a defender, they just fit together.
“The different types of soccer that every member of my family brings is amazing,” he said. “Soccer was meant to bring people together in the first place, so it’s just a beautiful thing.”
The diversity within the family is one of the reasons that it’s so important to the parents that the children play for foreign teams.
“That’s been really important for us, that our children meet children from other countries to normalize their experience,” Amanda said, adding that the tournament broadens the children’s life experience.
The kids all have positive experiences from Target USA CUP. Although only playing in his first year, Gideon said he enjoys playing with his team from Rio de Janeiro for the fun and love of the game, along with the chance to meet new people. Remington, also playing for a team from Brazil, added that he likes that he can experience unique cultures when he comes to the tournament.
Being around kids from other countries helps the adopted children find themselves. Amanda recalled how excited Dominic was when he started playing with a Brazilian team in 2014 that would ultimately go on to win the championship in its age group.
“He shared with me ‘Mama, I feel like I click and I play with people who play like I do,’” she said. “’They play for the love of the game and it’s not stress and pressure, they’re playing with smiles and joy. But they also feel the emotion I do; whenever they lose they cry, and it showed me that it’s okay to feel emotion about it.’”
Amanda said she highly recommends the international guest player experience to parents of children without a team in the tournament.
“Our children have had nothing but the most wonderful, positive experience playing for international teams,” she said. “They’ve been so welcoming, there’s very much of a family culture that happens very quickly with the kids on international teams … It’s not an intimidating experience.”