When it comes to playing a sport you love, the opportunity to travel abroad to play doesn’t happen too often. East Ridge High School’s Madison Majewski, senior, and Maddie Poor, sophomore, were given the opportunity of a lifetime back in July.
Soccer is a sport both girls have loved to play since they were kids. Majewski, starting in rec at the age of 4, began playing with the Minnesota Thunder Academy (MTA) at a U9 level. Poor started the sport at age 3 and began with MTA a couple of years later. Soccer has always been the sport they grew up with and they’re now playing at an elite level. Both girls were given the opportunity to travel to Gothenburg, Sweden during July of last year to play in the Gothia World Youth Cup and represent the USA.
Majewski played in the tournament with the U17 team and Poor played for both the U16 and U17 teams. Tobbe Thorsell and Danny Storlein were the coaches traveling with the two MTA leagues. Thorsell, originally from Sweden, grew up playing in the Gothia Cup and when he began coaching in the United States he started taking his teams there.
“It’s so fun for me because they get to play really good teams overseas and it’s rewarding to see their expressions and how they take everything ... traveling abroad, getting out of their comfort zone ... You’ll grow much more as a person and get to meet new people,” says Thorsell.
With 1,686 teams and 75 nations represented, Sweden’s Gothia Cup is an annual tournament that is held during the summer and is the world’s largest youth soccer tournament. The first ever Cup was held in 1975.
“Playing a team from abroad is very different to see how they play compared to how we play. Also language barriers are very different. They have different formations, we see if they’re technical or not, so that was the best aspect,” Majewski says.
Playing teams from Germany, Spain and Japan, the U17 team took home the Gothia Puma Trophy, winning it all at their level. Poor says as the games got better and better, and as they continued to win, there were more people filling the stands.
The experience of winning was something for the girls and their team. “It was amazing winning … You look up in the stands and there were a ton of people there, and we’re from America, so not many people are cheering for the American team,” Majewski says.
When the team had time off in between games, they’d take the tram into the city.
“Because we kept winning, we didn’t have much free time. But any time we did, we’d go to this place called Espresso House which is like a Starbucks. And there was Joe and the Juice which is where we’d get lunch,” Poor says.
The girls are excited and eager to return to this year's Gothia Cup but will continue their competitive leagues with MTA three to four times a week with two games every weekend. In their free time outside of soccer, Majewski enjoys spending time with family while Poor enjoys snowboarding and skiing with her family in Afton.
Looking ahead to the future, Majewski will be graduating from East Ridge High School this spring and attending James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA in the fall where she’ll be playing Division I soccer and majoring in business.
She’s excited for this new chapter in her life. “It seems like a new journey. I picked a school far away because I want it to be my own journey,” Majewski says.
As for Poor, she has committed to UW-Madison for the fall of 2022 to play DI soccer and major in something medical-related.
“I’m really excited for college, but I’m hoping high school goes slow because everyone says it goes really fast … but I’m excited for what the future holds,” says Poor.
The Gothia Cup will be held July 12-18 this year and team registration is now open.