With U.S. set to host World Cup, kids (and adults) envision being part of the action
June 24, 2018
On June 13, following a vote in Zurich, FIFA announced the U.S. will co-host the 2026 World Cup, and with the soccer tournament's 2018 edition currently underway in Russia, it's easy for both kids and adults to picture what the North American effort will mean for Parkites and American soccer.
Last week, an estimated 200 youth soccer players participated in a Park City Soccer Club camp at Ecker Hill Middle School. While the players were not representing their countries on Russian pitches, many are at an age that would make them suitable to suit up for the 2026 World Cup, set to come to the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Alex Taylor, 13, joined a recreational soccer team when he was four.
"Then I just kept playing," he said. Now, he says, many of his friends are soccer players, and the joy of running around the field keeps him involved with the sport.
It's one of his dreams to play professionally – "to be on the field with a bunch of other (professional) players" — but, barring that goal, he hopes that the 2026 World Cup would help elevate soccer in the U.S.
"I think it will be a good opportunity for soccer here, because it will bring scouts and maybe make the culture of soccer here a little bit better," he said.
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Andrew Way, president of the Park City Soccer Club's board, has similar hopes.
"I see, in 2026, we could really shift forward again and move out of the Middle Ages and into the Enlightenment, where this is not just a youth sport anymore; it's a path to true professional sports careers," he said. "And not just playing on the field — that can be trainers, that can be coaching, that can be working in the front office, that can be marketing, running clubs."
Way said his 11 year-old son, Holden, immediately saw, when the announcement came out that the 2026 World Cup will be in the U.S., that he would be 19.
"That's the same age as (American player for Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund) Christian Pulisic, who he identifies with pretty intensely," he said. "So for him, all of a sudden, playing at a World Cup in his home country is really pretty tangible, where when the World Cup is in other places it's less tangible."
Way is also excited about the idea of the World Cup as a force that brings the world together, and regardless of the way the games are split among the United bid's countries (10 apiece in Mexico and Canada, the remaining 60 in the U.S.), he said any cooperation is a good thing.
"There's a lot of stuff going on in the world right now that's decidedly un-united," he said. "So the fact that we've done this together on any level is fantastic."
Way envisions holding massive outdoor viewing parties, like those he's seen in World Cup coverage, and hopes that at least one team makes its way up to Park City for training, like Manchester United did last season.
"I could see a world where we all have our noses up against a chain-link fence, trying to catch a glimpse of the pros," he said.
If Olivia Brown, 13, one of the players at Ecker Hill for the camp, had her pick of who would come practice in Park City, she would choose the U.S. women's national team.
In particular, she said she admires Seattle Reign star Megan Rapinoe.
"She's really good, and same with Alex Morgan," Brown said. "She keeps the team going and gets all the goals."
But really, Brown said, it would be best to be in their cleats, playing in front of an international crowd.
"It would be really cool to play," she said. "But who knows."