Wrexham AFC will enter a team in the new million-dollar, winner-take-all 7-on-7 soccer tournament this summer in North Carolina, marking the Welsh club’s first-ever trip to the United States.
A final roster won’t be determined until a later date, but the club is planning to include players who appeared in the FX documentary series “Welcome to Wrexham,” former players and possibly some current first-team players, according to Shaun Harvey, advisor to the board at Wrexham.
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The club, which is owned by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny, is also expected to have a U.S.-based preseason in July that would likely include friendly matches, Harvey said. Those details will be determined later.
“[Playing in The Soccer Tournament] keeps us very current in a period of time when there would be no football traditionally being played [in the United Kingdom],” Harvey said. “And it helps pass the message that Rob and Ryan have been really keen to portray about the club is that it’s not all about a first team. It is about a club.”
If Wrexham wins the $1 million prize, the club plans to donate half of it back to its local community, Harvey said.
“Wrexham has always been a team in our minds that would be perfect for this type of a format,” TST founder and CEO Jon Mugar said.
“What they’re doing over in Europe and the journey that they’re on is unique. You can’t take that journey here in America, in the professional sports system the way that it’s constructed. There’s obviously no promotional/relegation and there’s no way to acquire a team and work your way up through the ranks into the highest level, which is really at the core of what TST and our model is all about.”
TST was introduced in October by TBT Enterprises, the group that founded The Basketball Tournament about a decade ago. That even started as a 32-team tournament with a $500,000 prize and has since grown into a 64-team field with a $1m that has been broadcast on ESPN.
The soccer version will feature 32 teams in a format similar to the World Cup with three group matches prior to a 16-team single-elimination stage from June 1-4 in Cary, North Carolina.
The maximum field dimensions will be 65 yards in length and 45 yards in width, and matches will be played with 18.5-by-6.5-foot goals. Draws won’t be possible and games will always end with a goal, like the “Elam Ending” in basketball. After two 20-minute halves are played, an untimed period begins to determine a winner by reaching a target score, which will be one goal more than whatever the team with the lead had at the end of regulation.
Earlier this week, TST announced it would include two other high-profile teams: US Women, a team of former U.S. women’s national team players organized by former U.S. star Heather O’Reilly; and Conrad & Beasley United, which is being organized by former men’s World Cup veterans Jimmy Conrad and DaMarcus Beasley.
“There’s nothing — there’s not one part of this tournament — that I don’t love,” Conrad said. “The stakes, the competition. I am thrilled and intrigued by the rule changes, including the target score. I think that’s really interesting and it’s just gonna impact the strategy.
“So that’s where me and [Beasley] are really curious about: How we can build a team that can take advantage of this?”
Conrad, who was capped 27 times by the USMNT and played at the 2006 World Cup during a lengthy professional career, said he’s been in contact with active and recently retired pros about joining the team, but doesn’t expect to know what the roster will look like until shortly before the tournament is held.
Five other teams have been officially announced: Team Dempsey, run by USMNT joint all-time leading scorer Clint Dempsey; Hashtag United, a semifinal professional club in England; Club Necaxa, which is expected to feature several former players of the Liga MX club; Zala FFF, organized by former MLS player A.J. DeLaGarza; and Nati SC, a FC Cincinnati alumni team.
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