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2010 World Cup Inspires Young US Football Players

  • Chris Simkins

Nine and 10-year-old boys play football in Washington, DCC

Nine and 10-year-old boys play football in Washington, DCC

Football fans and those who play the sport are watching their favorite teams and players compete in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The month-long tournament has come to define the sport in many countries around the world. But the popularity of football, also known as soccer, has been slow to catch on in the United States. That's slowly changing, thanks in part to a growing interest in football among young people.

The growing popularity of football is on display every week on this pitch.

These nine and 10-year-old boys and girls in Washington, D.C., are playing in a city league. Many, like midfielder Dillon Reid have been playing since they were three.

"I would like football to become a very popular sport because in my opinion I love the game of football and I hope a lot of other kids do too," said Reid.

More than three million players in the U.S., from the ages of 5 to 19, are registered in youth football programs and that number is rising. Players like Danny practice fundamentals hoping to attain the same skills as the great players. Danny says kids are inspired by what they see during the World Cup.

"If they see the World Cup they will see all of these Ronaldinho moves, the rainbow, step overs, and they will try to practice the exact same thing to get to the World Cup once they are an adult," he said.

"I like all the aggressiveness of all the teams and how they play and I just want to see more drama. about the World Cup and everything, " said Marcus, 9, a striker on his team. His mother, from Ethiopia, wanted her sons who were born in the US to play the sport.

"[Football] is the main sport in Ethiopia so everybody plays soccer so I wanted my kids to learn how to play," said Mekeds Tassew.

Luis Cubeddu, from Venezuela, coaches this youth football team. He says the excitement generated by the World Cup in other countries is just now catching on here.

"In Latin America where I am from, football is something that is watched on weekends and families get together to do so and kids see it from an early age," said Cubeddu. "Whereas here, there is less of that tradition and I hope that tradition is growing. And I do think watching the game makes a difference in terms of inspiring kids to play."

Players like Lucy agree. She says young American footballers need more role models.

"I think they have to have an example like some stars like Landon Donovan on the US national team of the World Cup so they can see what an example of a good player is and what they could be like when they grow up and work hard at football," she said.

Many of these young players say, win or lose, they enjoy the sport. They say watching the World Cup only fuels their enthusiasm, helping to build a bright future for youth football in the United States.