Jackie Santacaterina and Mike Magee are cousins who grew up playing soccer… (Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
The time: Early 21st century. The place: An extra bedroom in an Elmhurst family home. The stakes: It never even mattered.
Mike Magee and Jackie Santacaterina have always tried to beat each other. From soccer to board games at family barbecues, neither wanted to lose.
Now, more than a decade later, the Chicago soccer-star cousins still find themselves attempting to one-up each other.
"Our family is highly competitive," Magee said. "I'm sure Jackie and I have crossed paths in spoons or playing a board game. She's witty and clever and catches me cheating. It gets pretty heated."
That competitive spirit spills onto the soccer field.
Magee is a forward for the Fire and Santacaterina is a defender for the Red Stars. As Elmhurst and Geneva, Ill. natives, Magee and Santacaterina now play for their hometown teams.
"It's an experience I never thought I would get," Santacaterina said.
On Saturday, Toyota Park will host the first Fire-Red Stars doubleheader. The Fire will play New England at 3 p.m., and the Red Stars will kick off their season at 5:45 p.m. against Western New York.
"When I found out [about the doubleheader], my smile was ear to ear," said Magee, 29. "Her game is after mine, so I can win my game and then enjoy watching her game."
Santacaterina is hopeful she will be able to play in the season opener. She's coming back from a right hip injury, on which she had surgery in October.
The pair support each other in person whenever possible.
"I try to make every Red Stars game I can," Magee said. "I travel a lot with the Fire, but once the [Red Stars] schedule comes out, I know pretty much right away which games I can be at. And everyone goes, our grandpa, parents, cousins."
The family makes game days a daylong activity. They tailgate in the parking lot and maybe throw a football around.
"My whole family goes to all my games," said Santacaterina, 26. "They'll walk in [to the stadium] at the last minute, right when my name is called, cheering."
Despite the travel and commitment that come with being a pro athlete, both find time to spend with family.
"It shows how close we are," Magee said. "It's a trait our parents passed down to us. We have some of the best parents in the world. They instilled the importance of family in us."
Santacaterina has always looked up to her cousin. Magee started playing the sport at age 4. And it was because of Magee and his older sister that Santacaterina followed suit when she was 5.
Growing up, the Magee home hosted countless soccer games between cousins. An extra bedroom in the home served as the venue. Two small goals served as furniture in the room, and they played with a soft soccer ball.
Their passion for family and a lifetime spent playing soccer together have built a strong bond that not even a little competiveness can fracture.
"I'm the proudest cousin in the world," Magee said of Santacaterina. "I watch her play and I'm so proud of her."
Both games Saturday at Toyota Park
Fire vs. New England, 3 p.m. NBC Sports
Red Stars vs. Western New York, 5:45 p.m.
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