Sacramento is the first city in the United States to host the STREET SOCCER HOMELESS WORLD CUP. More than 100,000 people are expected to participate or watch the event, which takes place July 8–15 at Sacramento State.
Sixty-four teams from 51 nations are expected to come, and more than 200 volunteers will staff the event, the first since 2019 and the 20th anniversary of the event. Entry is free. Food trucks and live music will round out the event.
Street Soccer is a 4-on-4 version of the sport, and is played on courts roughly the size of a tennis court—with walls. Scoring often reaches into the double digits because of the small court size and fewer players, despite games being just 14 minutes long.
To be eligible, players must not have played in previous Homeless World Cups, must have been homeless within the past 12 months and must be in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.
“We’ve taken about 20 men and women to Homeless World Cups over the past 12 years,” says Lisa Wrightsman, the managing director of Street Soccer USA: Sacramento. “The majority of the adults we have taken are now not only housed and employed, but living very fulfilled lives, engaged in the community and their families. We have had a few players attend Sacramento State and graduate.”
Wrightsman herself was homeless for a few years after a stellar career playing for the Sac State Hornets. After a pro career failed to materialize, Wrightsman says she was ill prepared for life off the pitch and found solace in drugs and alcohol. Early in her sobriety, she says, she found out about Street Soccer USA while in a sober-living program run through Volunteers of America. She competed in a national tourney in 2009 and the Homeless World Cup in 2010 in Brazil. She coached the United States at the 2011 tournament in Paris and has attended every World Cup since, she says.
“The tournament changed my life,” Wrightsman says.
Her wife, Tiffany Fraser, also is a former Sac State soccer player and is now chief of staff for Street Soccer USA.
“We don’t expect (Homeless World Cup) to change everything, though we hope it will spur discussion and change negative perceptions of homeless individuals,” Wrightsman says. “At the end of the day, these players are people deserving of respect. Not because they have been homeless, but because of what they have overcome to be where they are today. We want everyone to see the possibilities of the human spirit.”