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TST: A Unique Footballing Experience

Altered rules and wildcard teams made for an entertaining four-day spectacle.

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A Day at The Soccer Tournament

For a list of tournament rules, see my first article on TST

If you’re curious about Dortmund’s involvement in TST, check that out here.

After watching BVB disappoint in the first match, I turned my attention to Far East United as they took on West Ham, and though the Premier League club was soundly defeated 4-2, it was still fun to see some jerseys I was familiar with. Soon after this match concluded I decided to cheer on Heather O’Reilly and the U.S. Women, who I had been talking up, suggesting they’d defeat Say Word FC. I was wrong as the women fell 0-5. Yet they sure fought with a lot of heart! This match concluded and I walked to one of the lower fields, where Team Dempsey were battling Jackson Tennessee Boom in an intense Target-Score-Time that saw the former USMNT internationals win 5-4. Next, I watched the Wrexham Red Dragons take on Serie B side, Como 1907, and while the Italian club finished the half with a two goal lead, they were unable to maintain it as Wrexham fought back in Target-Score-Time to win 3-2, claiming the advantage as the field of players decreased. This was all just at the day session; I went back for more in the evening!

Target Score Time

“Target-Score-Time,”(also TST) is a unique rule to The Soccer Tournament: Once the full-time whistle blows, a target score is set, calculated from the leading team’s score plus one. Then teams play an untimed period called Target-Score-Time until one of the two teams reaches that score, ensuring every game ends in a goal. What’s more? Every five minutes of Target-Score-Time, teams must withdraw one player without replacement. I’ll admit that I was skeptical of this, but the rule made for some absolutely thrilling match conclusions.

After Dortmund’s shambolic display against Newtown Pride, I watched the conclusion of Kingdom FC versus Hoosier Army, a game that the Hoosiers led 4-2 at full time. But this game had become an intense stalemate during Target-Score-Time and Kingdom pulled two goals back, making it a golden-goal situation. Both teams seemed locked, even when the match was at 3v3, but Hoosier Army finally found a winner at 2v2. When players start exiting the field, the games open up and teams are forced to change tactics. In Dortmund’s final game, the Black and Yellows lasted just 41 seconds, but many of the matches had final periods lasting ten, fifteen, twenty and on a few occasions, twenty-five extra minutes.

One team that seemed to excel at Target-Score-Time, was Zala FFF, the wellness-app club. In their Round of 16 clash with the Raleigh Rebels, Zala was down 1-3 heading into Target-Score-Time. It remained 1-3 until over fifteen minutes had passed when Zala scored at 4v4, and then equalized a few minutes later. At 3v3, Zala’s keeper, Eduardo Cortes, netted a winner to send his club to the quarterfinals. In their subsequent match, Zala faced Cesc Fabregas and Como 1907. The Italian’s were the dominant team throughout this match and the full-time whistle blew at 3-0. But I’d seen Como slip up in Target-Score-Time against Wrexham a couple days earlier, and Zala seemed to improve as the team-size decreased. Zala pulled one back quickly but it took them almost twenty more minutes to find their second, and once the teams were down to 3v3, Zala took care of business 4-3 in one of the most entertaining comebacks I’ve ever seen in sports. Zala would lose 0-1 in the semis to SLC FC in the only match of the tournament that was scoreless in both halves.

Bare-footed Clint Dempsey gives his team pep-talk

Merchandising Miss

The tournament was sponsored by and there were a few merchandise locations around Wakemed Soccer Park, but the selection of items available for purchase was abysmal. They had stickers for each team, which was the only product available for many. One could purchase TST paraphernalia and some tee-shirts with Wolves logo or Team Dempsey, but many clubs were either underrepresented or not represented at all. They also sold Wrexham hoodies, although I’m not sure who bought one while attending in 90-degree heat. I purchased a Dortmund sticker, and a Sneaky Fox FC sticker because I liked the name and logo, and a TST scarf to commemorate my experience.

Around the Soccer park, there were designated areas for Charlotte FC and NCFC, as well as Como 1909, who served alcohol as well as offering photos opportunities in a faux-locker room, complete with hanging jerseys. What surprised me the most about merchandise however, was the lack of jerseys available for any of the represented teams. Yes, I’d love a Sneaky Fox FC jersey. Coolest name and coolest kit at the tournament. These clubs could have sold hundreds if not thousands of jerseys last weekend, but none were available.

Exciting Final

What’s a good tournament without an exciting final? The stakes were high: $1,000,000 on the line in a winner-take-all tournament final between Connecticut’s Newtown Pride FC and Sports League Canada FC. Ten countries were represented but only two teams made it to the final. I decided to root for Newtown Pride FC because the club has had strong philanthropic ties to Newtown, Connecticut following the Sandy Hook tragedy over a decade ago.

The two teams played evenly through the first half, and by the second half it was anyone’s game. In the thirty-fifth minute, Newtown’s Gabriel Costa broke the deadlock 1-0. Entering Target-Score-Time at the same score was only a slight advantage to the New England club but at 5v5, Newtown’s Kelvin Nunes found the net after some hectic team play in SLC’s box. The crowd went wild in celebration and Newtown’s entire bench piled on top of Nunes, having just scored a million dollar goal.

Identity Crisis

This is the inaugural The Soccer Tournament, so I write this with some leniency. The teams involved in this tournament fell into two separate categories: Playing for a million dollars or not taking anything seriously at all. Look, it’s a bit bizarre, I know. But TST was at its best when players took the games seriously. Dortmund, Westham and Wolves were all out in the group stage and these were the biggest names of the tournament. In some ways, it felt like TST got these teams to sign on just for marketing reasons because these random teams nobody had heard of played a lot better than the name stays. Even Team Dempsey looked like they barely cared. I expected more from Jermaine Jones and Chris Wondolowski.

Winners & Losers of TST

Newtown Pride Celebrates their Championship

The Winners

Newtown Pride FC & the Community of Newtown Connecticut

NPFC is a small club that plays in a small league, so winning a million dollars will go a long way for the club. In addition, a portion of the winnings will be donated to the Newtown Pride FC Scholarship Fund at the Newtown Community Center in Newtown CT. Newtown Pride FC are the first champions of TST!

Wrexham Red Dragons

As one tee-shirt I saw read: “No Wryan, No Wrob, No Problem.” Wrexham was the best-supported team at this tournament and that’s a testament to how much support the club has gained since Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchased the club and created the docuseries Welcome to Wrexham just over a year ago.

Como 1907

While many of the European representatives floundered at TST, Como did it right. Partnering with football legend, Cesc Fabregas and bringing a squad ready to compete, took this Serie B club few had heard of and turned them into one of the only Serie B sides I can name. They had a Como stand at TST and even hosted a kids kickaround session prior to the TST final.


The tournament may fly under the radar of most football fans, but it was an exciting event nonetheless and a great groundwork to build upon for TST 2024.

The Fans

Spectators were treated to an exciting tournament at an affordable price. Most every game was either streamed on YouTube or available on Peacock so fans could easily watch. (at least in USA)

The stadium wasn't huge but every seat had a great view

The Losers


This one speaks for itself. Sports League Canada performed brilliantly enough to make the final of TST, but the Canadians left empty-handed. They earned the respect of every tournament-goer.

Dortmund, Westham, and Wolves

The most well-known clubs represented at this tournament and none took it seriously enough to compete. These were among the least-exciting teams to watch at TST and that’s the opposite of what I expected.

FC Dallas

The only real oddity in the games I watched came from Westham versus Dallas United. The Texans had been leading 2-0 heading into Target-Score-Time but there was a lengthy pause that stadium-goers could only speculate about while players and coaches and referees argued. Eventually the Westham players walked off the field, appearing to forfeit the match. It was later revealed that FC Dallas would withdraw from the competition after alleged racial abuse of Westham players. I think TST handled this situation well. More on that here:

Did you watch any of TST?

Let us know in the comments!