Fan atmosphere makes Corn Palace Cup a hit
The bleachers that typically sit along the baseline of the basketball court at the Corn Palace were replaced by soccer nets on Sunday.
The Palace played host to its first ever arena soccer event when the United States national arena soccer team squared off with Brazil, drawing 1,206 people for the third such contest ever held in the United States.
The blizzard that battered Mitchell and much of South Dakota caused concern for Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt, but his fears were dissipated when fans filed in to watch Brazil topple the U.S. in a 6-2 outing.
"My hopes were above 1,000 (fans) when we first announced this," Schmidt said. "I wasn't sure how the soccer draw would be and then the blizzard happened. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, please tell me we're going to get 500.' But, I was beyond excited. I didn't think this many people would come and it was a fantastic atmosphere."
While many in the upper midwest are eager for the snow to melt, many of the Brazilian team members caught the first glimpse of snow in their lives when they landed in Sioux Falls, according to head coach João Garcia.
The team spent most of the weekend feeling right at home in Mitchell, as they attending a Mitchell Soccer Association-hosted camp with 150 youth soccer players on Saturday at Mitchell High School. They also dropped in on a 16-team youth soccer tournament that concluded at the Corn Palace on Sunday.
"I think the people here made the event so much better than what we expected," Garcia said. "... We thought the people here were so warm. Everyone welcomed us like we were home in Mitchell. ... You can play a game in a packed arena and outside it's full of snow. Overall the event was fantastic. The people made it that way."
Schmidt has known Garcia for nearly a decade, while Schmidt was serving as the athletic director at Florida National University in Hialeah, Florida. He hired Schmidt to be the men's soccer coach and the two have maintained a relationship since.
Both are open to continuing that relationship with a return game in Mitchell, with Garcia openly campaigning for an annual pilgrimage.
"The president of the national team, the players—they really loved the atmosphere," Garcia said. "If we could make this a yearly competition, this would be the first of many Corn Palace Cups."
Brazil led the U.S., 4-0, at halftime and eventually held on for the win. Juninho scored twice, while Renan Dias, Matheus Ferreira, Elmo Neto and Ricardo Carvalho scored a goal apiece. Orge Carmona and Luis Pinto scored for the Americans.