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  • Michaela Chan

Going Global with Men’s Soccer

Spring break is the perfect time to unwind, go home, travel to a new city, hang out with friends, or simply relax. During this period off, the Cornell men’s soccer team had an amazing opportunity to travel to Manchester, England. Their time there allowed them to bond as a team, see what being a professional athlete entails, explore the city, and enhance their soccer abilities.

In Europe, soccer, or more widely known as football, has a huge culture because it is the most popular sport on the continent. When Dakota Jonke ’26 found out about this trip, his feelings were off the charts: “Playing soccer/football in England is another level due to the high standards there. Everyone on our team has dreamed of playing in England, so being around that culture is super exciting.”

Andrew Johnson ’26 added that he found it funny to see so many soccer fields in the city. He could really see how engraved the sport is in English culture, as many people are proud of their local teams no matter the level at which they play.

While in Manchester, Burnley F.C. was kind enough to host them. Burnley showed the team their training facility, hosted a training session run by their Technical Director, getting tours of the field, and provided them with tickets to see them play. They were even lucky enough to see Burnley finish as champions of the EFL Championship (England’s second-highest division of competitive football) and get promoted into the Premier League—every English football club’s dream!

Jonke expressed gratitude saying, “Their hospitality was unforgettable. We were able to be coached by some of their coaches and we could see their side of football compared to American football. It was a fantastic experience. They treated us like pros.”

“We were able to use their locker rooms and had a Burnley guide with us to show us around,” Connor Drought ’23 added. “Their coach was making fun of American soccer for a bit, but I think we surprised them a lot. He was a really great coach that allowed us to see a different side of coaching. Because of this experience, a lot of the guys are now Burnley fans—they bleed claret and blue.”

Their trip included playing 3 teams: the Blackburn Rovers U23 team, Burnley F.C. U18s, and Burnley FC U23s. Johnson expanded on his experience playing these professional teams: “We lost the first game (0-3), but it was the coolest game for me. The players were super high leveled, and it was eye opening to see what it was like playing professional players. Additionally, beating Burnley’s U23’s (4-1) was the best I have seen my team play. We were super united, and after, we got to get dinner by the wharf and had the high of winning still buzzing.”

Some of the trip highlights included touring the Etihad Stadium which houses Premier League powerhouse Manchester City, watching Manchester United beat Everton in a sold-out Old Trafford, riding Manchester United’s First team bus, singing songs and chants for Burnley, and exploring the city later at night. All three of the boys explained how the last dinner they had was one of their core memories as they were able to sit as a team and enjoy their time together whether it was doing coach impressions, making fun of each other, or just reflecting on their experience.

From winter training to playing right after they landed in Manchester, the boys took this trip as a huge learning experience. Jonke elaborated, “Offseason is very tough, and the coaches are very strong in the winter, so going against these players was a treat as they are worth millions of dollars. It was very aspiring to play against them, as it showed me that the players you play against are human, and if you push yourself, you can accomplish your goals.”

“We got to see and experience what a high-level professional academy and coaching is like. They are more technical, and their intuition is so high. It was nice to see everything pay off as we were proud of the way we played and it was a very eye-opening experience.” Johnson continued. “I do not think you can bond more than being in the same place as a team. For the last game, one of the Burnley guys pushed Wes [(Westin Carnevale ’26)], and it caused a fight; we all came together, really showing that we would die for each other."

As a senior, Drought expressed that he was hoping to do something like this in his time here, so it was nice to be able to take on this experience before he graduated. He explained that he was able to bond with the newer teammates, and he feels that this has been the closest he has been with the team. He hopes that all teams get to experience something like this as it helps bring teammates closer to each other and exposes players to what it is like to play their sport professionally. Drought loves that soccer is so universal allowing opportunities like this to arise. He described this trip as, “super Vincent Kompany, comradery, and unforgettable.”

Although this trip came to an end, it was an eye-opening experience for all the men. Johnson explained that playing against players this advanced allowed him to see the vision of next season. “There was a constant quote ringing in my head saying, ‘If we play like this, we can advance.’”

We are so lucky that the Cornell Men’s soccer team was able to immerse themselves in a country where soccer is so mainstream. Because they have recently gone into the NCAA championship, we are all excited to see how they will perform this upcoming fall. Jonke ended by saying, “Our assistant coach Lamar gave me a quote before a game and said, ‘Opportunities multiply as they are seized.’ For me I will never forget that."


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