England is one of the world's hotbeds for soccer. On the men's side, the English Premier League boasts a fanatical following and is widely considered the best league in the world, from top to bottom. Lost in the recent hubbub over the English men's team's stumble in Euro 2016 was the women's national team's third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, easily the country's best-ever finish on that stage.
The soccer-crazed country will play host to the Buffalo State women's soccer team for nine days, beginning Aug. 4 and running through Aug. 12. By working with an organization called Global Team Travel, Bengals head coach Nick DeMarsh has orchestrated the overseas trip to prepare his team for the 2016 season while still meeting NCAA regulations.
While regular training and two friendlies are on the soccer itinerary, the sightseeing will be brilliant for a team already blessed with continuity. The Bengals will tour Old Trafford and Wembley, two iconic stadiums, spend time in Liverpool, cruise down the River Thames (they'll learn quickly it's pronounced "TEMS") and explore London.
Watching an English Championship men's match between Blackburn and Norwich, on Aug. 6, is also scheduled, as well as a futsal session in St. George's Park, the home facility of the English national teams.
Visits to Camden Market, a bustling, open-air marketplace bursting with food vendors vying for attention, and Warwick Castle, a medieval fortress that's approaching 1,000 years old, are two of the non-soccer stops on the trip.
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The bonding experience -- certainly beneficial for the nearby University at Buffalo men's program, which parlayed a March trip to London to an eventual Mid-American Championship appearance in November -- is key for DeMarsh, who enters his 15th season at the helm.
"The memories and the experience are once in a lifetime for many of these players," he said. "I hope that they will always remember this trip fondly and share their passion and enthusiasm with the next generation of players they come in contact with, either coaching or with their own children."
After their return, the Bengals have a week of captains' practices before they begin preseason officially on Aug. 22. Buffalo State is home for the first time at 5 p.m. Sept. 19 against D'Youville. For now, you can follow the women's team on Twitter here.
SOCCER-SPECIFIC HIGHLIGHTS - A TIMELINE
Aug. 5: Arrive in London, transfer to Manchester
Aug. 6: Tour Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United; play a friendly match; watch Blackburn vs. Norwich
Aug. 8: Futsal training session in St. George's Park
Aug. 9: Train under coaches at West Ham United
Aug. 10: Second friendly match of the trip
Aug. 11: Tour Wembley Stadium
Aug. 12: Return to Buffalo
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who once spent a semester in London near Highbury Park, at email@example.com