Evan Vare first put on a Vereinigung Erzgebirge shirt as a 4-year-old playing in the club's Mighty Mites program.
On Sunday, Vare converted a decisive penalty kick surround by hundreds of club members and fans to send the VE Majors team into the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
With the penalty kick victory over New Jersey Alliance FC, Vare and company became one of 11 amateur teams from across the country to qualify for the tournament through four rounds of local qualifying.
The Warminster-based club last qualified in 2019 but never got a chance to play in the competition since it was postponed in both 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It’s an experience that I want to give my players," said Rob Oldfield, head coach of the Majors team and technical director for the club. "We want to see VE get drawn with a big club. It gives my club members something to get excited about. It gives the players on our youth teams something to dream about. They all want to be Majors someday. Those kids have role models they can watch every week. Players that started at the club, went on to have successful college careers before coming back to play for the Majors."
Vare was just starting out his soccer career when the Majors last competed in the U.S. Open Cup in 2002. He went on to play at Lehigh Valley United, where he was a state and regional champion and national runner-up and with the Olympic Development Program before playing collegiately at Lafayette and Villanova.
On Sunday, Vare was the hero holding out his arms near the penalty spot as his teammates and dozens of VE youth soccer players ran onto the field to celebrate. Vare is one of several players on the team with a long history playing for the German-American social and sports club that dates back to 1931.
Kevin Smolyn and Sean Peckham, who both played in Sunday's decisive Round Four game, played the better part of their youth careers at the club before joining FC Delco and Christian Williams and Johnny Ciarlante also started as young kids. Other players on the team have come through their summer U-23 program or via other local youth soccer clubs and college programs.
The 2024 U.S. Open Cup will begin in March.
West Chester United qualified through the National Premier Soccer League and the Philadelphia Union automatically qualifies through Major League Soccer.