A Soccer Family
When Tay Vang landed in France as a young refugee from Laos in the early 1980’s he would quickly take to a favorite European past time, soccer. He started scrimmaging with his neighbors but soon found himself traveling across France with the elite team of his province. Tay moved to Minnesota in 1991 and his interest in the sport quickly wanned. For most Americans, soccer is the game your parents made you play at five years old. You were given a trophy for participating and a sugar cookie after the game. Tay didn’t like the atmosphere he found and quickly hung up his cleats.
Fatherhood would reignite Tay’s soccer journey as his four children; Maddie, Chelsea, Brian and Michael took an interest in the sport. He started training them in the backyard and enrolled them in a local recreational league while he scouted competitive teams in the area. To Tay American youth soccer felt more like babysitting so he decided to bring a European-style experiment to the Twin Cities by founding his own club, St Paul United, in the heart of the Hmong community on the Eastside.
After playing with their father’s club Brain and Michael joined the Minnesota Thunder Academy program in order to experience a higher level of competition. Tay was also offered a coaching position with the organization. The organization was not the best fit for the family and they moved on after a short time.
The Vang Siblings would go on to dominate at soccer at Harding High School where sister Maddie scored a total of 37 goals during her junior and senior year and was named MVP in 2013. She played collegiately at the University of South Dakota. At only 5’ 3” brother Brian had a tough road to the pros. After high school, he was initially rejected by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and after finally being accepted he opted to accept a spot on the NCAA Division 1 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where he led his team to a 2017 Horizon league championship. In 2019 Brian was selected for the Midwest Pro combine.
Brother Michael was invited to join the U.S. National Team where he played at the U14 and U15 levels. After committing to play collegiately for the University of the Pacific he decided to forgo college to pursue a professional career in Europe with the team 1º Dezembro out of Portugal. Americans are often viewed as inferior in European leagues and are viewed as relying more on their physicality than skills. Michael learned from playing in Europe and returned to the United States where he joined his brother Brian at a tryout for USL1 Forward Madison FC. The 5’ 8” Michael made the team while Brian did not. Brian returned to St Paul where his sister Maddie helped him train. The hard work finally earned him a spot on the roster with the Michigan Stars of the National Independent Soccer Association.
The top-tier soccer league in the United States is Major League Soccer (MLS). Michael's performance on the field with Madison FC quickly caught the attention of MLS scouts. It wasn’t but ten minutes into his first game when he punched in a goal. On February 18, 2022 Vang became the first Hmong American and the second Laotian-American after Samad Bounthong to play on an MLS team when he signed with Columbus Crew.
Brian Vang-Photo Courtesy of UWGB
Maddie Vang-Photo Courtesy of University of South Dakota
Michael Vang-Photos Courtesy of Michael Vang & Columbus Crew
About this Article
Information for this article came from Wikipedia, FC Michigan Stars, the Sahan Journal, the Pioneer Press, and the Vang Family. A special thank you to Dylan Derousseau from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Bryan Boettcher of the University of South Dakota for granting photo usage permission.
Last Updated: April 06, 2022