Minot Magic Football Club - a youth soccer program - canceled practice ahead of Tuesday's Round of 16 tilt between the United States Men's National Team and Belgium.
While on-the-field training is a crucial aspect of a young player's progression, developing an appreciation for the sport can be equally relevant, particularly regarding one's national pride and identity.
That was the reasoning behind Tuesday's practice postponement, and anyone within earshot of Spicy Pie between 3 and 5:30 p.m. likely heard an onslaught of chanting and encouragement for Team U.S.A.
These three youngsters were one of many to show their support for the United States Men’s National Team on Tuesday at Spicy Pie in Minot. Coaches and players from Minot Magic Football Club flooded the restaurant to cheer on the Americans against Belgium in the World Cup Round of 16.
"It was pretty cool," said Jason Spain, Minot State head coach and Magic F.C. director. "We're doing what we're supposed to do, teaching kids to be fans of soccer and fans of the U.S.A. Our staff does a good job of that."
Originally organized in the mid-1990s, Magic F.C. is currently enjoying record participation numbers with more Minot-area kids getting involved in youth soccer than ever before.
Of the other youth organizations throughout North Dakota - including programs in Bismarck and Grand Forks - only Fargo fields more kids than Magic F.C.
"With Minot soccer especially, we try and build a good following for the entire club," said Nate Gutierrez, a California native coaching U-10 girls and U-12 boys. "Our U-12 boys team will go cheer on the U-12 girls team. Our U-14 boys team will come and cheer on a U-10 girls team that's playing. So anytime we go to a tournament, we try and bring all of our fans to all of our games. It's about camaraderie and team building."
Magic F.C. has increased its numbers dramatically in the last five years, going from five teams to 21 this summer.
With teams advanced as far as the U-19 level, the program's most significant depth is found in its younger constituency.
There are two U-9 teams for both boys and girls. There are another two girls teams in the U-10 ranks coupled with three boys teams at the same level.
Below those nine groups, there are an additional 30 kids participating in Minot's U-8 academy.
"You start them earlier and earlier, the more talent you're gonna produce out of the kids," said Aaron Daley, another California-born coach working with U-9 and U-10 boys. "The more numbers you get and the better coaching that you get in, the better chance you have of producing better players, because you've gotta get the players early on and coach them up."
While the numbers aren't quite as substantial in the older ranks, coaches anticipate better participation in the future. Now in his fifth year with Magic F.C., Spain hopes to see his younger players continue playing into their teenage years and beyond.
Because there's talent in this city. Last season, Minot had a city-record 42 kids make the all-state team - a combined squad containing both North Dakota and South Dakota players. Minot's 42 qualifiers were more than any other city between the two states.
"That tells you that our (coaches) are training the kids up right," Spain said. "You've gotta teach the game, but you've also gotta teach the passion for the game, and I think our local kids have a lot of passion."
Joe Mellenbruch covers legion baseball and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.