SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — An annual international street soccer competition is coming to Sacramento.
The capital city is hosting the Homeless World Cup in 2023, a tournament that will be held for the first time in the United States. The annual tournament will be held from July 8 to July 15 at Sacramento State with games at Hornet Stadium.
The competition involves 64 teams with players from around the world who have experienced homelessness and are refugees. Sacramento State will have on-campus housing available for players throughout the week-long competition.
All teams will play the same number of matches and compete in separate divisions. Teams will play about two to three matches per day.
“They’re going to be treated in a way, recognized in a way, and supported in a way that they’ll remember for the rest of their life,” Street Soccer USA Sacramento Executive Director Lisa Wrightsman told FOX40 News in a phone interview. “It will determine how’ll they go back and continue to rebuild their lives.”
When the international competition takes place in Sacramento, it will mark the event’s 20th anniversary.
The 2023 tournament also marks the return of the event after it was canceled the previous three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament last took place in 2019 in Cardiff, Wales.
The Homeless World Cup was previously been held in Mexico City, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, South Africa, Brazil, Milan, and Paris, France. The event started in 2003 in Graz, Austria.
Street soccer is more fast-paced than regular soccer with higher-scoring games and quick transitions. Street soccer is played with teams of four — compared to the sport’s usual number of 11 — and uses walled courts the size of basketball courts.
The eligibility for players is to have experienced homelessness within the last 18 months, or have been or currently be in a sobriety program in the last three years. The tournament operates through a network of over 70 national partners throughout the world.
Players are nominated by their country programs and are based on the commitment of their team and not the ability to play soccer.
Wrightsman expects a few players for the women’s and men’s tournaments to be from Sacramento.
Resources for the players will include on-site medical staff, social and mental health services, food, translators for players who don’t speak English, and a team guide.
Full circle for former Sacramento State Hornet
Wrightsman is a former player in the tournament, competing in the 2010 tournament at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Wrightsman, who is a former Sacramento State soccer player, was introduced to a street soccer program in Sacramento during her sobriety journey while in rehab for drugs and alcohol.
“Ever since that, I’ve understood the impact that it has on all of the players,” Wrightsman said. “After that experience, that motivated me to come back to develop a larger program in Sacramento.”
Since co-founding the Sacramento chapter of Street Soccer USA, the street soccer tournament coming to Sacramento State is a full-circle moment for her.
“Every year you want people to experience it because it’s so much positivity,” Wrightsman said. “We’ve talked about a lot in the community in Sacramento, and I’ve always wanted to have people go to it and to have them experience it here is even better.”
The focus for Wrightsman and Street Soccer USA Sacramento is to find partners and sponsors for international competitions.
Those who want to get involved in the event can email Wrightsman at Lisa@streetsoccerusa.org.