Ahead of the 7th annual Congressional Soccer Match, we sat down with the co-chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus to learn more about how soccer has impacted their lives and those of their families.
The Honorable Don Bacon (R-NE 2nd District)
The Honorable Kathy Castor (D-FL 14th District)
The Honorable Darin LaHood (R-IL 18th District)
The Honorable Rick Larsen (D-WA 2nd District)
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO BECOME A CAUCUS CO-CHAIR?
Rep. Bacon: I played soccer in college and Congressman LaHood pleaded for help! Seriously though, whether you call it soccer or football, it is the world’s most popular sport and is played in over 200 countries. It’s a sport that is universal and I loved playing it.
Rep. LaHood: Growing up in central Illinois, sports always played a role in my life and my family’s life. As a kid, I was always drawn to sports – the camaraderie of playing on a team, the competitive nature of sports, and lessons of success and failure in athletics helped shape who I am. When I came to Congress, I wanted to find a platform to express my support of sports and to continue advocating for athletics across this country – and co-chairing the Soccer Caucus lets me do just that. Soccer is a worldwide game that is important to my family and community in central and west-central Illinois. In the 18th District we have a successful and diverse soccer presence, with eight college or university soccer programs, both men and women. I’m proud to be a leader in Congress for the positive impact soccer has on children, our state, this country, and the world. I also have three sons that play soccer.
Rep. Larsen goes toe-to-toe with former USWNT forward, Carin Gabarra
Rep. Larsen: Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and unites billions of people from different communities, religions and ethnic backgrounds unlike any other sport. As co-chair of the Soccer Caucus, I can give this inclusive sport a voice on Capitol Hill.
HOW HAS SOCCER IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?
Rep. Bacon: My two sons played travel soccer in elementary, junior high, and high school, and it is still a part of their lives today. Both played on their varsity teams and one scored the winning goal in the state high school championship. It was a critical part of their development and I enjoyed watching them learn how to be a teammate and work together with others to achieve a common “goal.” …Pun intended!
L to R: Rep. Castor, Rep. Bergman, U.S. Soccer Foundation President & CEO Ed Foster-Simeon, Senator Young, Rep. LaHood, and Rep. Bacon
Rep. Castor: I love soccer and spent many years on the field as a devoted parent in support of my daughter and her teams. I have seen firsthand how important soccer can be for children as they grow and develop important life skills. Studies show that after-school activities lead to healthier lifestyles, increased knowledge about exercise and nutrition and positive gains in reading, math and reduced crime in our neighborhoods.
Rep. Larsen: The Pacific Northwest has one of the strongest soccer fan bases in the country, and as such, soccer has played a big role in my life. I started playing soccer when I was eight years old and have been an avid fan my entire life. I still cheer on the Sounders.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE THE MATCH SYMBOLIZES?
Rep. LaHood with a Soccer for Success DC SCORES participant ahead of kickoff
Rep. Castor: The Congressional Soccer Match is a great opportunity for members across the political spectrum to come together, support a good cause and have fun! It is also an amazing opportunity to create awareness on how sports like soccer can be leveraged to transform communities and ensure that children reach their full potential. I am excited every year to help share the benefits of the “beautiful game” with our children, especially in underserved communities, by raising awareness on the U.S. Soccer Foundation's grants for after-school programs. Winning the Congressional Soccer Match for the fourth year in a row isn’t bad, either.
Rep. LaHood: The Congressional Soccer Match symbolizes the positive relationships and camaraderie between Members and political parties that outside observers of Washington don’t necessarily see on cable television. The Match brings Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle together, and for just a few hours, it gives us an opportunity to put aside politics and play a game we all love. But the game also symbolizes more than just bipartisanship and fun – the game also highlights the work done by the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs that support children in underserved communities and encourage children to embrace active lifestyles while learning about sportsmanship and the value of being on a team. The Match lets us promote the importance of engaging in physical activity, expanding access to sports for youth, and living a healthy lifestyle.
Rep. Castor lifts the trophy with former USWNT goalkeeper, Saskia Webber
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO SOCCER?
Rep. Bacon: You can be tall or short and still compete in soccer unlike many other sports. It’s a great sport to keep folks at all ages in good physical shape. The game relies purely on skill, endurance, and quickness rather than muscle strength and physique.
Rep. Castor: Soccer not only celebrates the values of teamwork and camaraderie, but can also bridge cultural differences and foster goodwill by bringing teams and fans together across the globe – especially in my hometown of Tampa. It provides players with the community and confidence that will shape their lives on and off the field.
Rep. LaHood: Soccer, unlike most other sports, is a worldwide game that is played on almost every continent and has the power to bring people from all walks of life and backgrounds together. It also is the fastest growing sport in the United States. Ensuring everyone in the U.S., particularly youth and those in underserved communities, has access to soccer is important because it is a game that can teach valuable life lessons, encourage healthy lifestyles, and provide safe environments where young people can thrive. Soccer can have a powerful impact on society and increasing access will only create a more prosperous and healthier environment for our kids and their kids to grow up in.
Rep. Larsen: Soccer is a safe, accessible and affordable sport that teaches kids more than just how to score a goal. There are tremendous health and social benefits when people have access to play soccer. Recently, I was at an event in my district where I met Angel Martinez who plays with the Seattle Sounders Academy. He was about to leave to play in a tournament with the national team in Italy. Soccer can connect a kid from Northwest Washington to other players around the world.
Join Rep. Bacon, Rep. Castor, Rep. LaHood, and Rep. Larsen at D.C. United’s Audi Field for this year’s Congressional Soccer Match. All proceeds benefit the Foundation’s life-changing programs. Learn more here.