Borussia Dortmund in North Carolina: The TST experience

Following the UEFA Champions League final in London, the Black and Yellows sent a team of club legends to Cary, North Carolina, USA, to compete at the TST Tournament.
Roman Weidenfeller
Roman Weidenfeller / Christof Koepsel/GettyImages
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The European Leagues concluded and Borussia Dortmund’s own campaign came to an end with a bitter 2-0 loss in the Champions League final. But there was little rest for die-hard BVB fans who weren’t ready for a break in competitive action. Next up was The Soccer Tournament! Taking place from June 5-10 at the Wakemed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, USA, this was the second edition of TST. 48 men's teams competed, as did eight women’s teams, in a separate bracket. Both tournaments completed typical group stages before the top teams advanced into the knock-out rounds.

What is TST? The Soccer Tournament, as it’s aptly named, is a 7vs7 tournament with a unique rule-set that makes for quite the spectacle; it's a bit different, but loads of fun. Teams field seven players at a time with unlimited, on-the-fly substitutes on a field that is 65x45 yards, about half the size of a regulation field. The halves are 20 minutes long. After the whistle blows ending the second half, teams play a third, untimed period called "Target Score Time." During this period, a "Target Score" is set to one goal higher than the leading team’s score. If the score is 4-2, teams play first to 5. If the score is 3-3, teams play first to 4. Not only does this allow every team the opportunity to mount a late comeback, it keeps the intensity high and ensures every single match ends with a goal, adding a unique excitement to match conclusions. What’s more, is that after every three minutes of “Target Score Time,” teams are required to withdraw one player without substituting another in, so the longer Target Score Time lasts, the fewer players remain on the pitch. Additional rules include the removal of slide tackles, and the replacement of throw-ins with indirect free-kicks.

Borussia Dortmund made their second appearance in TST, this time bringing a roster loaded with club legends like Roman Weidenfeller, Kevin Großkreutz, Felipe Santana, Tinga, Evanilson, Marcio Amoroso, Lucas Barrios, and more along with youth coach, Dru Wright, and TST commentator, Michael Lahoud. As a journalist granted media credentials for this tournament, I was pretty excited seeing this roster of players. Unfortunately, life had other plans for me and a Covid infection prevented my involvement at the tournament. This gave me a different perspective, as a mere spectator from home and I must admit how nice it was hearing such complimentary commentary from Lahoud throughout the tournament. He seemed to have really enjoyed playing with the BVB squad and had only positive things to say. If positive PR was what Dortmund were going for, then they’ve certainly succeeded.

BVB’s involvement with TST seemed to be heavily focused on goodwill as they offered “The Dortmund Experience” at TST with player meet-and-greets and a strategic partnership with Wandering Wolf Food Truck to deliver authentic brats to tournament guests through the week. Videos surfaced of Roman Weidenfeller handing NFL legend Pat McAfee a brat while he was live broadcasting is something I never thought I’d witness, and I loved every second of it.