Encinitas youth soccer players to travel to Spain for Donosti Cup

Three Express teams will travel to Spain.

Three youth teams in the Encinitas Express Soccer Club will be traveling to Spain in July to compete in the Donosti Cup.

“What I hope to happen is the other teams will be good competition for us, and I also really just want to learn more about the culture,” said Desi Turner, 12, a student at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School and a player on one of the two boys teams that will make the trip.

Two boys teams, one of 12-13 year olds and one of 14-15 year olds, and a girls team of 12-14 year olds will compete in Spain. Encinitas Express Soccer is a nonprofit that provides competitive and recreational soccer programs for more than 1,700 players from ages 5 to 19 in Encinitas, Leucadia, Cardiff and South Carlsbad.

Elio Bello, executive director of the Express, said the boys and girls will each face separate challenges going up against the global competition at the cup.

“As far as worldwide on the women’s side, all the other countries are catching up to the USA,” he said. “On the boys side it’s definitely going to be a bigger challenge I think.”

There will be about 50 boys and girls making the trip to San Sebastian, Spain, as well as 100 family members.

“I watched the teams train, I think they’re going to compete and they’re going to do well,” said Bello, who was born in Italy and played in Europe before arriving in the US and playing with professional clubs including the San Diego Sockers.

Some of the players and their families will be leaving the U.S. for the first time, or at least making their first big trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Throughout all three teams there’s an air of excitement, that’s the main emotion right now,” said Phil Shuttleworth, the Express director of younger teams and technical director. “There aren’t really any nerves or anything like that at this point, it’s just pure excitement and hard work.”

The Donosti Cup has been around for 30 years, according to the website of Premier International Tours. It is the biggest tournament in the south of Europe.

“I’ve always said that soccer’s like speaking a second language, you’d be welcome wherever you go in the world because it’s the most popular sport in the world,” said Shuttleworth, who has spent about 15 years coaching boys and girls throughout San Diego County.

For more information on the club, visit