NCFC, NC Courage prepare for The Soccer Tournament ::

NCFC, NC Courage prepare for The Soccer Tournament ::

The Soccer Tournament returns to WakeMed Soccer Park for its second year and with both North Carolina FC and NC Courage competing for the $1 million dollar prize, the message is clear: “protect our home.”

“80% of these guys have worn the badge before, and they know there’s a community component that comes with that and representing that,” said NCFC TST head coach Dewan Bader.

Both sides got together to celebrate at the AVA Rooftop Bar in Cary on Tuesday evening, unveiling the kits for the tournament, and in some cases, getting to know their teammates.

“They’re just coming together, some of them for the first time meeting each other, but you can feel the energy and the excitement, it’s great,” North Carolina Football Club President Francie Gottsegen said.

The men’s side of the tournament, which begins on Wednesday, includes 48 teams. NCFC will play twice on Wednesday and once on Thursday.

The Soccer Tournament field

Looking through the roster for NCFC, you see a lot of players with local ties.

“It just brings back tons of memories and it’s a lot of fun, we’re all really excited to be together and ready to compete to be honest,” Bader said.

Bader was the head coach last year. What did he learn from the process? Study film and start running.

“The players learned they had to get more fit, and so the guys that are local, that participated in it last year, they’ve been putting in more time, so I think we’re further along than we were last year. Realistically we found out maybe a month in advance last year, we were just piecing it together.”

And from a tactics perspective? Try not to fit a square peg into a round hole.

“You look at the group that won last year, it was a lot of indoor soccer players. 7v7 is very similar to the 6v6 in indoor. I played indoor for 10 years. So we kind of took that approach, if they’re not NC FC, Railhawk folks, then we’re going to look to the indoor component.”

NC Courage competing in first women’s TST

For the first time, there will be a women’s teams component to The Soccer Tournament. While there are less teams competing, eight compared to the 48 on the men’s side, Gottsegen sees it as a continued investment into the future of women’s sports.

“As a staple of this community, it’s really important for us to be a part of this and the fact that TST has started a women’s tournament so quickly after starting the event itself,” Gottsegen said. “The fact that they recognize the growth of women’s soccer, the Courage being a big part of all that, it’s really exciting, it just says a lot about the growth of the sport and we’re excited to be a part of that.”

Former NWSL, NC Courage and US Women’s National Team star Jessica McDonald will play and captain for the group, on top of everything she did to set up this team.

“I put the whole team together, which was a lot of work by the way,” McDonald laughed. “It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s refreshing to be here and everything settled. the tournament is going to start, we can focus on playing, but it’s been honestly awesome so far.”

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McDonald says she’s happy to strap the boots on again. She understands the moment, being able to say you took place in the first of something.

“I think it’s so awesome and to be able to represent the North Carolina Courage again in a different type of capacity, honestly that’s just cherry on top. At the end of the day, it’s an honor, it’s an honor to be a part of something historical and to be a part of this organization once again.”

For putting together the team, McDonald had a few ideas.

“So I knew first and foremost that I wanted a lot of defenders, which is a huge chunk of this team, because we want to keep teams from shooting.”

Throw in a combination of youth and experience, and McDonald hopes the team can go all the way.

NC Courage Women in Sports Panel

“I won an NWSL championship here with the North Carolina Courage, I got to win an NCAA tournament with the University of North Carolina, and why not win another one with the Courage for TST?”

The Courage will start the festivities with a 9:30 a.m. match on Friday against Burnley.