By Aaron Cheris

On Monday night at The Frying Pan at New York City’s Chelsea Piers, 32 amateur international soccer teams discovered whom they would be playing in the group stage of the seventh annual Cosmos Copa tournament.

The group draw was done World Cup style, with ping pong balls determining which group teams ended up in. Each of the eight groups is comprised of four international teams who will play each other in a tournament similar to the World Cup.

Leading the draw was former New York Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing, who currently serves as an ambassador for the club.

“This is a formal tournament for what really is grassroots in New York,” Messing said. “These are our people, this is our city. I’m very happy the Cosmos are involved.”

 As a former player and lifelong New Yorker, Messing has played with players from all over the globe, and he knows how important this tournament is for the players in New York.
“We’re obviously the greatest melting pot in the world,” Messing said of New York. “As big as the Cosmos are, these are our people, this is our city.”

The Frying Pan in Chelsea hosted this year's draw.

Many players in the tournament are amateurs, while some have played for their country on higher levels before. For everyone, the chance to represent their country playing the game they love is something to be excited about.
“I believe it’s a great experience against high-level competition. You get to play against the best players in New York,” NYC Paraguay president Dario Cabanas said. “That’s a great experience for any player.”
“I think the bond is great that all these different countries can come together for this tournament and play against each other,” NYC Poland captain and goalkeeper Marcin Czerwinski said.
NYC Poland president Artur Kurasiewicz added, “I think it’s fair for everybody and I expect a lot of good games.”
At the group draw, hope shined bright for everyone. 
“Although we have never been part of the top teams, we’re still going to go for it,” NYC Holland defender Maarten Smolders said. “We look pretty good so far. We have a few young players and some new additions to the team.”
“We always expect to win. That’s the main goal. We won in 2010 and 2011 and every time since then, our goal has been to win,” Czerwinski said.
The Cosmos have teamed up with staff from thier Official Charity Partner, Street Soccer USA, to help run the day-to-day operations of the tournament. 

“Our mission is to reach the least served; homeless and at risk youth and young adults and use soccer as a tool to transfer life skills and job skills,” Street Soccer USA president Lawrence Cann said.
Ultimately, Cann believes that Cosmos Copa can expand to a bigger tournament with a broader reach.
“One day it could be like a whole World Cup with qualifying year round and with play-in games and then our final tournament in the summer,” he said.
Play begins on July 4 at Randall’s Island, and if any team is looking for an extra goalkeeper, Messing is hoping for the call.
“I’m absolutely ready,” Messing said. “I think I could give any team a good 10 minutes, make a couple of saves, then I’m done." 
Group A: NYC Senegal, NYC Greece, NYC England, NYC Kosova
Group B: NYC Haiti, NYC Guinea, NYC Holland, NYC Ukraine
Group C: NYC El Salvador, NYC Peru, NYC Ghana, NYC Guyana
Group D: NYC Poland, NYC Mexico, NYC Colombia, NYC Spain
Group E: NYC Ireland, NYC Paraguay, NYC Japan, NYC Jamaica
Group F: NYC France, NYC Uruguay, NYC Chile, NYC Honduras
Group G: NYC Gambia, NYC Ecuador, NYC Antigua, NYC Scotland
Group H: NYC USA, NYC Albania, NYC Argentina, NYC Croatia