World Cup aside, Duluth soccer interest growing
Soccer -- the world's most popular sport. With recent World Cup scores flashing all over the news, the fact is hard to ignore, especially in Duluth. But while world-class teams vie for bragging rights and national legacies hang in the balance, so...
Soccer -- the world's most popular sport. With recent World Cup scores flashing all over the news, the fact is hard to ignore, especially in Duluth. But while world-class teams vie for bragging rights and national legacies hang in the balance, soccer fans can look to Duluth for a championship league all its own.
With 12 teams and two competitive divisions, the Duluth Amateur Soccer League (DASL) won't overshadow the World Cup soon. However, for it's dedicated and diverse players, DASL games look to kick up some great local enthusiasm.
And there are lots of DASL games.
When World-Cuppers brace for the championship match this Sunday, July 9, DASL soccer will have barely reached mid-season. In a little more than a month, Duluth players will gear up for another big championship - their own.
On Aug. 19, with all the World Cup drama blown over, the Duluth Amateur Soccer League playoffs look to whet local soccer appetites for the second time this summer.
The DASL league holds games every Wednesday and Saturday at UMD.
"It's getting really big," said Adam Jaros of the Vagrants. "It used to be only six teams -- a bunch of foreigners playing down at Park Point."
Like many players, Jaros is a long-time DASL competitor. With 23 years of experience, he's seen the league outgrow fields at Park Point and in West Duluth.
Jaros said that just this year the decision came to split up the growing number of teams into two competitive divisions. This competitive split, plus the formation of indoor and women's only leagues means that the DASL has finally come into its own.
"The whole thing actually started from a semi-pro team called Geno's Jets. They used to tour the Midwest and Canada," said Jaros.
It's that historical flavor that puts an interesting twist on Duluth soccer. Credited for bringing soccer to Duluth, European and African immigrants are said to have started the league in the 1960s.
"Back then, very few people knew how to play and it was easy to shine," said Tad Czernia.
Czernia, originally from Poland, is a 20 year veteran of the DASL. He's no anomaly, though. Soccer players come from miles around for exciting matches at UMD's Malosky Stadium.
"Everyone says that this is a college league," said Bjorn Larsen of Spooner, Wis., "but we're high schoolers that jump in to play."
Larsen said that he and five other friends make the weekly trip to Duluth so they can prepare for high school matches in the fall.
UWS Yellow Jacket Val Golden thinks the same way. Golden plays for Dubhlinn Pub. She said that many of the women on her team especially look forward to the challenge of playing in a league filled largely with men. "It helps us stay competitive," Golden said.
Female players like Golden plus foreign transplants like Czernia add up to an interesting mix of players for the Duluth league. Throw in the fact that adults of all ages are welcome and it comes as no wonder that the dedicated players come back year after year.
But intense competition isn't why DASL players return. For most, the reason is the simple enjoyment that comes with the game. Port City's Dean Grace likes to relax at the barbecue after he plays a quick pick-up match.
"Hey I just got done playing soccer, and now I'm grilling burgers. What could be better?" Davies said.