NYC ‘World Cup’ to unite diverse soccer communities

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New York soccer is a distinctive brand of the sport, played on Astroturf and patchy grass, in dust bowls and on playground asphalt by skilled players who talk trash in a multitude of tongues. But while the city’s soccer landscape is often divided along ethnic lines, an upcoming tournament, reputedly the first of its kind, is seeking to weave together New York’s disparate soccer communities.

Copa N.Y.C., to be played over the weekends of July 25 and 26 in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and on August 1 and 2 in Maspeth’s Metropolitan Oval, is the brainchild of soccer fanatics Chris Noble and Spencer Dormitzer. The two met while working on a Nike advertising campaign for the 2006 World Cup, making short films to showcase the unique fabric of New York City soccer.

“There was nothing that was kind of connecting it all,” Noble told The Courier, recalling the segregated nature of city soccer that he and Dormitzer discovered while working on the Nike project. “The city needs a city championship, and the best way to do it is through nationalities and communities that will involve everyone.”

The duo had to start small, however, so the inaugural Copa N.Y.C. will feature just 16 “nations” – with soccer powerhouses like Italy, Germany and Brazil left out this year.

The final make-up of the World Cup-style tournament – comprised of former professionals and amateurs from across the world, all living in New York City – is the result of collaboration with community cultural advisors, active community members and what Noble calls “New York City soccer personalities.” The United Nations, the City Sports Commission and the Parks Department are tournament partners.

“We’re all New Yorkers – that’s the beauty of Copa N.Y.C.,” Noble said. “It’s showing what New York City is all about.”

Tournament admission is free for spectators and the action starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 25, with a round robin of hour-long games. The top two teams from each of four “groups” move on to the quarterfinals on Sunday, with the semi-finals and finals – each 90 minutes – played the first weekend in August at the Metropolitan Oval. The winner will receive the “Mayor’s Cup” and be honored at a New York Red Bulls game on August 15.

Noble, who plans to turn Copa N.Y.C. into an annual event, called the tournament a “unique opportunity to all work together.”

“Personally, I’d love to see ambassadors in the hallways of the U.N. trash-talking,” he added with a laugh.

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