Street Soccer USA National Cup is coming to Old Sac, and you can play too
For the past 10 years, Street Soccer USA has brought hope to recently homeless people by organizing them in soccer teams. The organization announced Aug. 15 that it will bring its National Cup tournament to Sacramento this fall.
The tournament will feature three days of four-on-four soccer played in inflatable pitches erected on the streets of Old Sacramento. Three hundred players ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s are expected to participate. Some of them will go on to play in the World Cup in Mexico.
This isn't just a tournament for the public to watch, however. Street Soccer is also inviting corporations, organizations and members of the public to form teams and to play in Old Sacramento over the tournament weekend. Fees from those players will go to help fund Street Soccer Sacramento's operations, which also include free soccer programs for youth in the city's economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. More than 500 children throughout the city participate in Street Soccer.
The organization expects to use some of the money it raises to buy two inflatable pitches so it can bring soccer to more kids right on the street rather than requiring them to travel to a field.
Speaking at a press release announcing Sacramento's selection for the National Cup, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said Street Soccer Sacramento's programs are addressing his key priorities of connecting Sacramento's growth and prosperity to youth in the city's neighborhoods and making a significant difference in the city's homeless crisis.
The program, Mayor Steinberg said, "Shows that homelessness need not be hopelessness, that there is a reservoir of the human spirit, and that everyone wants to participate and be part of a team and a community."
Street Soccer Sacramento is led by Lisa Wrightsman, a former Sacramento State University soccer player who later fell into addiction and homelessness.
"This is a huge day for me personally and for our Street Soccer family," Wrightsman said of the news that the National Cup was coming to Sacramento. Wrightsman played in the first Street Soccer National Cup in 2010.
"I was about 60 days sober in my journey of trying to rebuild my life and also reshape a vision of what that life could look like," Wrightsman said at the press conference. "The three days I spent in Washington DC had a huge impact on that....The amount of joy and celebration that was happening really instilled a level of hope that I hadn't felt in a long time."
Councilman Jay Schenirer said Street Soccer Sacramento has held clinics and tournaments for four years in the Oak Park neighborhood, reaching hundreds of kids. Eight elementary schools generally participate in the tournaments, he said.
The benefits, Schenirer said, extend well beyond soccer.
"They're teaching kids about teamwork, they're teaching kids about respect," he said. "They're trying to develop these young people."