LOVES PARK, Ill. (WTVO) — Countries around the world show off their national pride every four years for the World Cup.
The matches can be especially inspiring for young athletes, and it is already clear that this year’s Cup is bringing plenty of excitement and a sense of community for all ages with it.
USA Soccer has the chance to return to the Round of 16 in the World Cup for the first time since 2014. With two ties in the group stage so far, a win against Iran would send them to the Knockout Stage.
A win like this would add to the monumental impact the sport is having across the country, including in the stateline.
“I think one thing that has been great about this world cup is that we’ve shown the game has grown tremendously here in the US, and obviously everyone keeps talking about comparing us to the rest of the world, which is a really tough task, but for me just seeing where the club scene has gone,” said Frank Mateus, director of coaching for Rockford Raptors FC. “The kids now at day can do things at younger ages that our older kids would’ve never been able to do.”
U.S. success on a worldwide stage is helping create a positive and lasting impact on the youth soccer community in Rockford.
“I like playing goalkeeper, I’m good at it and I want to be professional,” said Jakub Kuziora.
“Eight years I wanna be there on the field playing in the World Cup,” added Kayden and Dayton.
“I’ve talked to people all over, it’s easy know to say we’ve come a long way,” Mateus said. “We still got ways to go, but what an impact the game is making.”
The World Cup is a beloved event. With it comes community, the thrill of sports and lessons learned. Soccer on the World Cup level is much more than a sport played on a pitch.
“Probably the competition, the aggression, the team too,” the 2021 Raptors said.
“Makes people unite, but have rivalries,” Kuziora added.
“Getting to skip school to watch the US play, and getting to, like, go to places just to enjoy everything,” Kayden and Dayton said.
The U.S. plays its final Group Stage match against Iran at 1 p.m. Tuesday.