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Blaine Lands Soccer Festival

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Blaine lands soccer festival


Pioneer Press

Hoping to re-launch their dormant league next year, the Women's United Soccer Association is turning to two of the country's top soccer facilities to build some momentum this summer.

WUSA announced Monday that the National Sports Center in Blaine and the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., will be host to soccer festivals in June. The league hopes to capitalize on interest in the U.S. national team's likely Olympic appearance and gauge interest in two potential franchise sites.

Kris Bjerkness, executive director of the National Sports Center, acknowledged that the festival is a tryout for his facility, and he's optimistic of a future relationship with WUSA.

"I think it would actually be a fine fit," Bjerkness said. "The largest crowd to attend a game at the Sports Center was a women's national team game in 2001. We had 15,000 people here for that event.

"We're just really excited about this event coming here because it's unique. They're tremendous role models, and it's a jewel in women's sports."

After three seasons, the eight-team WUSA folded last year because of an inability to attract investors and sponsors. But a committee is guardedly optimistic the league can re-launch next year.

"We have to have things fall into place," said Tony DiCicco, a co-chairman of the WUSA re-launch committee.

The current plan is for four WUSA teams to play a doubleheader at the Sports Center the weekend of June 17-20. The festival also would include clinics, autograph sessions and community outreach programs.

It's likely one of the four teams will be the Atlanta Beat, which features Dayton, Minn., native Briana Scurry, a goalkeeper for the U.S. national team. Another might be the Boston Breakers, for which Jena Kluegel, a defender from Mahtomedi, plays.

DiCicco said a potential ownership group hasn't been identified in the Twin Cities, but he added that the area "fits the mold" of what the league is looking for in an expansion city.

"I know there is interest there because we have talked to people who are interested," he said Monday. "There are a number of steps that have to be solved before we can go further, but from a community aspect I think the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is outstanding."

Bjerkness said the WUSA hasn't asked for the Sports Center's help in identifying potential owners but that he would be more than willing to help the league.

Scurry said she would welcome a chance to play for a Minnesota team.

"My intent is to hopefully win the gold medal this year and then actually play at least one more season in the WUSA," said Scurry, currently in Costa Rica trying to help the national team qualify for the Summer Olympics. "If there were a team in Minnesota, it would be nice.

"My mom and dad still live there, and they have not seen me play in person for many years. Being able to play there is going to be an incredible experience for me."

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