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The Connecticut Soccer League side win the inaugural tournament — and one of the biggest cash prize in North American soccer.

Courtesy TST

Moments ago, Newtown Pride FC, a pro/am team based in Sandy Hook, CT that competes in the Connecticut Soccer League, won the inaugural TST competition by defeating Canadian side SLC FC, and will take home a $1 million cash prize.

It’s the richest purse in North American soccer: The US Open Cup, MLS Cup, and CONCACAF Champions League each award their winners just an estimated $300,000. The achievement is even more remarkable when you consider that Newtown was hoping to win a $25,000 prize just three years ago, but were sidelined by the COVID pandemic.

The team that was founded in 1998 by brothers Mike Svanda (who is also the head coach) and Matt Sandva (who is also the general manager) earned not only $1 million, but a national audience that tuned into a thrilling final broadcast on CNBC and streamed live on Peacock.

All of American soccer is paying attention:

Newtown Pride FC in regulation time

Let’s not mince words: Newtown were the better team from the opening whistle.

The team’s composure, creativity, and chemistry were on display throughout the two 20-minute haves of regulation time. They looked like a team that understood and trusted each other, and that thrived under the peculiar rules of TST. No offsides and rolling substitutions favor the more dynamic and cohesive team.

While Newtown looked dangerous in possession, SLC remained organized off the ball. The first half was scoreless, and SLC came close to stealing a goal in one of the few attacks they mounted in the second half. But then this happened:

In this moment, Newtown’s Gabriel Costa showed why he’s one of the breakout stars of this tournament.

Target Score Time

That set the Target Score at 2 — Newtown had to score once to win it all, while SLC had to score twice.

For the uninitiated, every TST game consists of two 20-minute halves plus TST, or Target Score Time. The Target Score is determined by adding one goal to the leading scoreline. The game continues until that Target Score is reached, but both sides must sit one player every five minutes: The 7-vs-7 game turns into 6-vs-6, then 5-vs-5, and so on.

The idea is to ratchet up the tension, raise the stakes, and end every game with a goal.

It totally works.

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Million-dollar goal

Newtown’s regulation goal gave them the advantage of needing to score only once, which allowed them to play an aggressively progressive game. The Newtown goalkeeper advanced so far up the pitch he was acting like a deep-lying playmaker.

They kept possession, launched an attack, recovered the ball, then started again. The Target Goal wasn’t met in the first five minutes, which meant both sides were reduced to six players. Then five players. Then this happened:

Here’s the reverse angle. Kelvin Nunes scored the goal – and was named POTM – but give full credit to Drew Ruggles for the street-ball assist:

Congratulations to Newtown for winning the biggest purse in North American soccer. They fully deserve it for the quality of their play.

And congratulations to TST for creating a tournament that we look forward to watching again next year, and that we hope MLS teams start to take seriously.