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USA, Mexico indoor soccer national teams ready to tussle in Cedar Rapids

Major Arena Soccer League International Challenge exhibition match set for Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at U.S. Cellular Center

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For anyone still needing an introduction to the brand of indoor soccer brought to town last year by the Cedar Rapids Rampage, the club has provided an event full of international flavor.

Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center, the national indoor soccer teams for the United States and Mexico will stage an exhibition match aimed at broadening the appeal for the burgeoning sport.

“USA-Mexico in Cedar Rapids. It doesn’t get any bigger than that,” Rampage Co-Owner/General Manager Chris Kokalis said. “For us, it’s a unique opportunity to introduce the indoor product because it is two indoor national teams. You’re getting guys from throughout the world.”

Saturday is the second Major Arena Soccer League International Challenge match of the summer between Team USA and Mexico. Nearly 7,200 fans saw the U.S. win a tight contest, 10-8, June 27 at Ontario, Calif. Rampage forward Gordy Gurson scored two goals and added an assist for the Americans in that game and will play a prominent role in Saturday’s tussle, which begins at 7:05 p.m.

“It’s not really a ‘friendly’ as they would say,” Gurson said. “It’s a game where Mexico really wants to beat the U.S., and likewise the other way.”

Gurson, 24, returns to the U.S. National Team after helping the squad win the inaugural World Minifootball Federation World Cup in March 2015. Team USA won all six World Cup games over eight days, capped by a 5-3 victory over Mexico in the final at Hoffman Estates, Ill.

“Playing for your national team is something you dream of as a kid,” Gurson said. “Every time you get an opportunity to put that (U.S. jersey) on, it’s a whole different ball game. Just knowing that at a national level you are able to represent your country, it’s an honor.”

Both rosters will be replete with current stars of the MASL, including five additional Rampage players. Bobby Hurwitz, Sam Guernsey and Alex Tozer will join Gurson for Team USA, while Alexis Apodaca and Diego Bobadilla will play for Mexico. A crowd of 3,500 to 4,000 spectators is expected Saturday, including a sizable contingent of Mexico supporters.

“Soccer is their first sport back home,” Kokalis said. “So to really be able to introduce them to our sport and get them inside the Cell Center to experience indoor soccer. … I think that is what I am really looking forward to, hearing some of those USA chants, Mexico chants inside. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The MASL International Challenge returns to Ontario, Calif. August 27 when Team USA faces Brazil. The second MASL season for the Rampage begins in late October.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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