WATERVILLE — For those watching a late-night television broadcast of an international soccer match from little pockets across central Maine last week, the moment felt surreal.

When Tre Ming came off the bench as a substitute for the tiny nation of Bermuda in the 72nd minute of a CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Costa Rica, the words from the play-by-play team introduced Ming has having played “at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine.” As soccer in Maine goes, particularly at the collegiate level, this was a gigantic — if not a “pinch-me” — moment.

College soccer. Division III. In Maine — central Maine, of all places.

The player Ming replaced? Former Thomas teammate Willie Clemons, who started all three group stage games for Bermuda at the Gold Cup.

“In my mind, Willie was the best player on the field for Bermuda in all three games,” said Chris Parsons, the current Thomas coach who once recruited both Clemons and Ming.

That Bermuda shared the pitch with Costa Rica — No. 39 in the world, according to FIFA.com’s rankings released earlier this month — was in itself an achievement. The Gombey Warriors did not advance to the knockout stages of the tournament, wrapping up group play with a 1-2-0 record, but that was not the point.

For the first time Bermuda qualified for the Gold Cup, which is contested between teams in the CONCACAF region. CONCACAF governs North and Central American soccer, as well as the Caribbean.

Bermuda is the 174th-ranked team in the world.

“This is one of my highlights as a coach, ever,” said Parsons, who took over the reigns at Thomas in 2011. “As a college coach, to get players playing at that level, even for a small country like Bermuda, it’s a pretty cool thing. Especially at Division III, you don’t see it very often.”

Parsons is now in his 10th season of annual recruiting in Bermuda, and the pipeline has been a successful one.

Now, with players like Clemons and Ming appearing on soccer broadcasts on a national network like Fox Sports 1 — which has carried the Gold Cup, where the United States men’s team finished their group play Tuesday night against Panama — the visibility of Thomas as an option for more players from the Caribbean island with a population of roughly the same as Portland, Maine’s can only increase.

Both Clemons and Ming started at larger universities before transferring to Thomas during their sophomore years in order to find a smaller, more comfortable environment.

“Some of these really young, good footballers are more interested in Thomas because we’ve had these other successful footballers and been a good fit in terms of college for them,” Parsons said. “It’s already helped us in our overall recruiting. Just the other night I sent messages out to all of our recruits, all of these kids going to be (high school) seniors, and they’re getting excited seeing pictures of our guys playing on television against some of these big countries.”

Though Clemons was a standout at the Gold Cup for Bermuda, it was Ming who was a more highly sought-after player when he was younger. Initially, Parsons said, he’d wanted Clemons to stay for his senior season at Thomas to complete his degree — but Clemons opted instead to sign a professional contract overseass.

Clemons developed quickly and now plays in Sweden’s second division, and it’s possible that his play at the Gold Cup could garner him interest from Major League Soccer teams in the U.S.

Ming’s road from Thomas to his appearance in a Gold Cup game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas — home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas — wasn’t as smooth.

Though he made his Bermuda national team debut in 2013 and was named the North Atlantic Conference player of the year in 2015 for the Terriers, a knee injury threatened to derail the 25-year-old’s career.

Just getting back to national team duty was difficult, and the reward — even for a 20-minute runout in a loss — was worth it.

On Wednesday, Parsons showed off a text from Ming, in which Ming said he was very emotional about his mention on the broadcast as a former Terrier.

“Thomas is family,” Ming wrote to Parsons.

That’s the wonder of small college soccer, and small college athletics in general. Players at Thomas, at Colby College, at UMF aren’t there for scouts or million-dollar paydays down the road. Typically, that group of teammates you compete with becomes the longest-lasting sports bond one will ever forge.

And, sometimes, that bond ends up on national television, during an international soccer competition, and it’s  already gone a lot further than anyone could have imagined.

“To see these guys playing on television,” Parsons said, “with people watching all over the world… Wow.”


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.