Another Opening Ceremony has come and gone at Target USA CUP, and it just keeps getting better. Weather forecasts threatened to derail the tradition, but storms in the area went south of the National Sports Center and Tuesday evening was clear and went off without a hitch.
“The fact that it’s the third-largest tournament in USA CUP history made it really special,” Activities and Opening Ceremonies Intern Austin Oberfrank said. “And the fact that we brought in a new title sponsor made it even better.”
There was a special guest at this year’s Ceremony: Bullseye, Target’s mascot! He was introduced on the field before the parade of teams.
Seacoast United and North Kingstown Soccer Club, from Maine and Rhode Island respectively, led the parade as the teams from the 49th and 50th states to be represented at Target USA CUP.
“I had a good time,” Julian Barajas from the Los Angeles Elite U14 team. “My favorite part was when I was walking out of the tunnel because there were so many people.”
Minneapolis-based singer Carolyn Schmitz gave a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. Skydiving professionals Chris Peterson and Mattie Guthrie then took a plunge out of a helicopter and onto the field.
Finally, the LEAD Monrovia Football Academy U15 girls’ team marched across the field to light the Target cauldron to officially start the tournament. They handed the torch to former MLS and USMNT defender Jimmy Conrad, now a social media influencer, to climb the latter and light the cauldron. Conrad will be a special guest at Target USA CUP through Thursday.
“I thought it was really good,” Nina Rowan, a player on Force Soccer U14, said of the skydive and torch lighting. “They pulled it off real well.”
A fireworks celebration capped another fantastic Opening Ceremony.
“This is my first experience at the USA CUP, and I’m super impressed,” said referee Ricardo Bittencourt Bento, from Itapira Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The whole tournament and the hospitality of the American people have been great. Everything is well organized and I hope to come back next year.”
Thanks to the teams who attended, and good luck to all the teams this week!
Aidan Berg and Grace Tafolla contributed to this article.