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Veteran MapleBrook coach stresses international experience over USA CUP success

07/15/2013, 2:45pm CDT
By Ryan Lund

Lev Buslovich, head coach of MapleBrook Soccer Association’s U-14 Rush Premier, knows a thing or two about Schwan’s USA CUP.

Buslovich is hoping that his latest squad will find similar success at the 2013 Schwan's USA CUP.

One or two, however, might be a conservative estimate; after nearly three decades spent in and around USA CUP, the veteran head coach has lost count of the number of gold flight titles that his teams have brought home, a streak that he’ll be looking continue as Rush Premier attempts to conquer the U14 girls’ Super Elite tournament.

Still, success at the National Sports Center has always taken a back seat for this USA CUP aficionado.

“It’s one of our last big competitions, but really the experience is much more important,” said Buslovich, recounting his recent history with the tournament.  “My girls, they just love the atmosphere.”

That atmosphere has brought Buslovich back, year after year, dating all the way back to the tournament’s inaugural outing in 1985.

Buslovich competed in a USA CUP exhibition match as a member of the now defunct Wings Soccer Club at the inaugural Sons of Norway USA CUP, an experience that kicked off a close relationship between the seasoned soccer hand and the rapidly evolving tournament.

“Soccer was just starting out here at that time,” he says, recalling that first brush with international competition. “It was the first time that we’d seen international teams.”

In the years that followed, Buslovich would continue to embrace the international side of USA CUP.

After working as an intern with the now-defunct Minnesota Strikers, Buslovich was introduced to soccer’s newest home in Minnesota: a $17.4 million amateur sports facility slated for a site in Blaine, Minnesota.

Naturally, he was interested, ultimately finding his niche at the newly constructed National Sports Center.

“What a fun place to be,” he recalls.  “To be able to stay in Minnesota and still get all of this international exposure.”

That international exposure continued to mount for Buslovich, who speaks fondly of his time spent immersing himself in global soccer.

 “I translated for Moscow Spartak,” he says, referring to the storied Soviet soccer club, which traveled to the National Sports Center during the facility’s inaugural season for a match against the U.S. men’s national team. “I’d go down and pick teams up from the airport.”

Listening to the veteran soccer coach recall his experiences at the National Sports Center, his passion for the game becomes clear, a passion that takes on new life when the conversation drifts towards his current team, MPB U-14 Rush Premier.

“I started informally training them back in sixes, back when they were very young, and sort of just stuck with them,” Buslovich says.

After reviewing some of the team’s recent results, it’s clear that the relationship continues to be a productive one.

After a successful run through the top girls’ U11 flight in 2011 as members of Thunder Academy, Buslovich’s squad returned in 2012 as MBSA Red Rush, winning the U13 Gold flight as well.

A third title, this time in the U14 flight, certainly seems feasible.

“Since we’ve won it two years in a row, clearly there’s still expectations and pressure,” Buslovich says, before quickly noting that at least for his team, USA CUP is rarely about winning titles.

“For us, how you do in State Cup and in Midwest League and in Midwest Division by far exceeds USA CUP,” he says.  “It’s more about having fun and playing interesting teams.”

Having been involved with USA CUP since its earliest days, Buslovich has a unique understanding of that spirit, and what the tournament means for the thousands of athletes that journey to Blaine each year.

“I just love that this that started in [1985] or whatever, just took off,” he says.

With any luck, this year’s tournament will have a similar impact on a few more aspiring coaches.

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Tag(s): July 15, 2013