Cary’s TST soccer festival wraps up

US Women players Heather O’Reilly and Ali Krieger embrace after their TST Championship win (photo courtesy TST)

CARY — Soccer fans and teams from across the globe converged at Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park earlier this week to watch the conclusion of the second-annual The Soccer Tournament (TST) that ran between June 5-10.

Featuring 48 men’s teams and eight women’s teams in a 7-v-7 format, the squads consisted of former professional athletes, ex-college players and other celebrities vying for a $1 million winner-take-all prize.


In Monday’s championship slate, US Women pulled out a 6-3 victory over NC Courage in the early game.

“All glory to God,” said Talia DellaPeruta, who scored US Women’s sixth and final goal of the match. “It was for my teammates and we just worked our butts off every game. We kept getting better and better, and I couldn’t think of a better group to do it with. “I’m just so grateful for this opportunity and that I could contribute. I’m just so happy right now.”

On the men’s side, La Bombonera bested Nani FC in a 4-0 finish in the late game.

“Discipline, hard work, team effort. This group was incredible. Look, everybody is crying…These are my dogs, man,” La Bombonera’s Chad Poarch said after his team’s win. “We are a complete team coming from different backgrounds.”

The open-entry competition from the creators of The Basketball Tournament (TBT) began last year with a single 32-team men’s bracket and expanded this year into separate World Cup style tournaments of group play and single-elimination knockout rounds.

The matches consist of two 20-minute halves and then an untimed extra period that only ends when one of the teams reach a target score, which is one goal more than the leading team has at the end of regulation.

The 2024 edition of TST included international soccer superstars like Sergio Aguero (Team Aguero), David Beckham’s son Cruz Beckham (Saturdays Football), as well as former NFL stars Chad Johnson (Nati SC), Pat McAfee (Concafa SC) and J.J. Watt (Burnley FC).

“It’s the energy,” NBA great and TST co-founder Chris Paul said on the strength of the young tournament. “Being an active player in professional sports, you know that when you put on an event, the first thing that matters is the players and how they feel about it. We’ve gotten some great feedback from the players, and then the fans that come out and support the energy of it.”

With more than 35,000 estimated attendees, 1,500 players and 118 matches among 56 teams, the event was projected to bring in $15 million.

“We are excited to welcome the world back to Cary for this one-of-a-kind global soccer festival with TST,” Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said in a press release. “It is an honor for Cary to be part of this unforgettable experience for soccer fans, whether they are cheering from the stands or from their homes, and we are proud to show everyone what Cary has to offer.”

In Sunday’s men’s semifinals, La Bombonera — anchored by players who won the 2023 Major Arena Soccer League title with the Chihuahua Savage — had a 3-1 win over Hoosier Army, a team of former Indiana University men’s soccer players

In the other men’s semifinals, Nani FC had a 2-1 win over Newtown Pride FC. Nani FC is built around the 37-year-old former Manchester United star and the Portuguese national team, while the semi-professional Newtown United was the reigning 2023 champion of The Soccer Tournament.

On the women’s side, the NC Courage defeated Streetball Canada 2-0 and the US Women took down Tampa Bay Sun FC 4-0.

Playing in their home stadium, the Courage are two-time NWSL Championship winners, three-time NWSL Shield winners. Meanwhile, Streetball Canada (two-time NWSL Challenge Cup winners) is a team that was an offshoot of a youth program.

The US Women team is made up of stars and starters from the United States national women’s team, while Tampa Bay is a young team making its debut in the USL Super League this year.

“First and foremost, we want to thank TST in Year 2 — equal prize money with the guys side,” US Women co-captain Heather O’Reilly said. “I’m so proud of this team. We played for the same fight that the US women’s national team has done for decades and we’re so proud to represent. It’s an honor to play with all of you guys.”

With the first men’s and women’s dual TST tournament in the books, the event’s organizers now have a chance to bask in TST’s success before it returns for Year 3 in 2025.