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The West Fargo U17 soccer team poses with their trophies after winning the championship in Souix Falls recently. Team members are Braden Schmid, Sam Saville, Matt Prochniak, Kyle Sorby, Nick Larson, Paul Lanctot, Jake Kroke, Jade Johnson, Josh Hanson, Zach Grindahl, Kody Duncan, Austin Dillard, Justin Conrad, Brandon Beyer and Mark Neugebauer. Submitted photo

West Fargo earns trip to College Kickoff

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West Fargo earns trip to College Kickoff
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It seems that West Fargo is making a name for itself on the national athletic stage more frequently these days.

The girls softball team went to California recently, and some top wrestlers were down in Oklahoma before that. Then there were the four Packers boys hockey players who got an invite out to Rochester, N.Y.

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The next sport to hit the national spotlight? Boys soccer.

The West Fargo Soccer Club's U17 team applied for, and was accepted to, the College Search Kickoff tournament, which runs July 31-Aug. 1, in Muscatine, Iowa.

"We're basically playing in the middle of corn fields," West Fargo Soccer Club President Mike Kroke said. "But it's known for the best turf around."

It was the first time the West Fargo team applied for the tournament, Kroke said. The application process for the College Search Kickoff involved sending in a "resume" of the team's past success.

"We really didn't know how our chances (of getting in the tournament) would be," he said. "But we felt pretty good."

All told, there will be 48 boys teams and 48 girls teams comprised of mostly junior- and senior-aged athletes from the United States and Canada. According to the official tournament website, the event "is an invitational showcase for youth soccer players who want to play on the college level."

Being as such, there will be approximately 300 college scouts and recruits from all levels of play, something Kroke said the West Fargo players are excited about.

"It's a chance to get some exposure," he said.

Area coaches typically attend, as well, from college programs such as Concordia in Moorhead, the University of Mary, and Jamestown College, though Kroke was not 100 percent certain if they would be there. NCAA Division I, II and III, NAIA, NJCAA and independents are represented, and teams receive a list of verified colleges before the tournament.

The College Search Kickoff is put on by the Iowa Soccer Association and CollegeInfo, as a way to bring Midwest players together with respective colleges on a national platform. There also is a college fair going on at the same time, Kroke said, to help educate the kids about recruiting and continuing education after high school.

Not only will the West Fargo players get a chance to strut their stuff in front of college recruits, but they'll be playing on some of the best soccer fields in the country. According to the website, the Muscatine Soccer Complex is a $4.5 million-dollar facility with eight professionally maintained soccer fields. The National Sports Turf Managers Association recognized it as the U.S. Soccer Fields of the Year in 1995 and 2002, the website said.

Kroke said West Fargo is slated to play teams from Omaha, Wisconsin and Iowa. Each team at the tournament plays three games. There is no first, second or third place, Kroke said. The event merely is a way for players to get some stiff competition in before the fall season, and to get evaluated by collegiate eyes.

Though they aren't playing for place, they are playing to win, and West Fargo has as good a chance as anyone.

"Soccer is improving in our state," Kroke said. The West Fargo U17 team did well so far this summer, only dropping one game during a shootout. It also won the championship during a tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The U17 team heading to Iowa is comprised of "basically a good part of our varsity team," Kroke said. With North Dakota State Youth Soccer tournament last weekend in Fargo, and the tournament in Iowa soon after, the West Fargo players won't get much time to rest before the start of the high school season.

"The (summer) season concludes Aug. 1, and the boys probably will have to bus home that night and start captains' practices the next morning," Kroke said.

Still, it is a chance for the players to get a jumpstart on fall play, as well as get some much appreciated exposure at the national level.

"They're pretty excited," he said. The players had to fill out packets and send them to colleges they were interested in attending. That way, recruits know who to look for when they are at the tournament, Kroke said.

The West Fargo Soccer Club is a community-based organization providing soccer programs for area kids ages 3-19. For information about the club, contact Program Coordinator Carol Fritz Saville at 701-478-0752, or e-mail soccer@westfargosoccer.org.

For information about the College Search Kickoff, visit the tournament website at www.collegesearchkickoff.com.  

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