Most Americans who ventured to Germany this June journeyed there to see the World Cup and be part of the atmosphere. Very few, however, intended to actually play soccer.

The Blue Devils managed to do a little of both.

The men's soccer team traveled to Germany and Austria from June 5-15 to play three overseas teams. Even though honing their skills, coming together as a team and facing professional competition were objectives of the trip, the Blue Devils did not miss the opportunity to partake in the German culture, sights, food and most importantly to them, the World Cup.

"We got to spend a ridiculous amount of time together," midfielder Chris Loftus said. "We were like a tight-knit family for 10 days. It was wonderful to be able to go there with 20 of your best friends, play soccer and watch the World Cup."

In between the Blue Devils' second and third games, they visited the Olympic Village in Munich-the site of the 1972 Munich massacre. In Olympic Park, they joined 60,000 ticketless German fans watching the first match of the World Cup between Germany and Costa Rica.

When the German squad scored its first goal, the crowd erupted.

"It was unbelievable when the Germans scored that first goal," goalkeeper Justin Papadakis said. "It was just as fun as being in the stadium. Being able to be in that environment and to interact with all the German fans was incredible."

Papadakis said the German fans were curious to know why a bunch of guys were walking around in matching blue uniforms with "Duke" painted across the front.

Later in the trip, the Blue Devils were able to do more than experience the World Cup buzz. After Duke's third game, the team traveled to Gelsenkirchen, Germany to attend the match between the United States and Czech Republic, which the United States lost, 3-0, to the Czechs.

"It was probably one of the coolest games I have ever been to," Loftus said. "The atmosphere was ridiculous. There were about as many U.S. fans there as Czech fans. We were singing the national anthem with 25,000 other people, and we saw that soccer isn't just a sport over there, it's a way of life."

Before the team immersed itself in World Cup hysteria, however, the first order of business was the three soccer matches. Upon arriving to Munich June 5, the Blue Devils only had one day to recover from the long plane flight before they took on their first opponent, TSV-1860 Rosenheim.

Duke showed very little signs of travel weariness as they staunchly defeated the German amateur squad, 4-0.

In the second match of the trip, Duke faced a Russian premier league team, FC Luch Energia Vladivostok. Even though the Blue Devils held the superior Russian team scoreless for most of the first half, they gave up a goal late when they were unable to clear the ball with 12 seconds remaining in the half.

Vladivostok added two more scores in the second half and shut out the Blue Devils, 3-0.

For its final match, Duke traveled to Austria to take on another Russian Premier League team, Dynamo Moscow. The Russian squad featured five Russian National Team members and was able to down the Blue Devils, 3-0, with one score in the first half and two in the second.

Even though the score did not show it, the Blue Devils had numerous scoring opportunities, including a header in the second half by Ramsey that ricocheted off the post.

"When we played the first Russian team, we had to learn to play against guys that were better than us, both tactically and physically," Papadakis said. "But between the second and third game, we definitely adapted. We picked up our game and found ways to compensate for their better play."

Papadakis added that competing against the Russian professional teams really showed the Blue Devils how they still have room to improve in so many ways. It also gave them an idea of what level and what amount of practice any player must do if he wants to play on a professional level.

With all the time Duke spent either watching or playing soccer, they also found time to visit various historic sites and explored many of Germany's cities. The most emotionally stirring moment of the trip occurred when the Blue Devils visited Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Germans during World War II.

"We walked around it, and it was very sobering," Papadakis said. "We saw the gas chamber, and they did a very nice job of telling the history of the place. It was very sobering to know that this happened only 60 years ago. Everyone took a lot away from it."

The team also visited the Eagle's Nest-the home built as a 50th birthday present for Hitler from the Nazi party-and took in the expanse and sites of Munich during a four-hour bike tour.

"I think any time you travel together and share experiences like that together-the bus rides, seeing historical sites, and watching the World Cup matches-you bond as a team," Papadakis said. "The social experiences and living together in a foreign country for ten days really helped us become closer personally."