Sometimes a partisan-netted goal is hard to come by on Capitol Hill, when often there’s no clear winner. But congressional members met under the lights of RFK Stadium on Tuesday night to tally goals at the third annual Capital Soccer Classic congressional match.
Republicans championed 8-4 in a heartbreaking loss for the Democrats' squad.
Despite the rain, the night began with a round-robin tournament among11 embassy teams and a U.S. State Department team. Following tens of goals, missed shots and slippery field conditions, the Netherlands came out on top as the winners.
The congressional soccer game followed, with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen at the helm of the Democrats’ net as goalkeeper, though he was later moved to the field for his footwork skills. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Kathy Castor of Florida represented the Democrat squad, along with Eric Swalwell of California, a collegiate soccer player.
Republicans Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Rich Nugent of Florida, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, Dave Reichert of Washington joined Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, playing with the burden of two losses in previous matches.
Rep. Todd Young of Indiana helped the team with a few shots on goal, as he relived the glory days of a high school state soccer championship.
At the end of the half, Republicans led 3-1, owing much of their success to Cobi Jones, a former U.S. men’s national team member.
Republicans still led, 5-3, at the end of regulation time. A mandatory penalty kick shootout to benefit charity followed, with for an 8-4 final score.
The Classic, sponsored by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, The Hill and Nike, showcased the congressional soccer caucus.
The caucus was founded shortly before the United States hosted its first and only FIFA Men’s World Cup in 1994. The United States hosted the Women’s World Cups in 1999 and 2003.
Soccer for Success and the Passback program are two of the initiatives the caucus focuses on – raising over $100 million in financial support for local soccer clubs and distributing around 900,000 soccer equipment pieces to children worldwide since 2006, said Ed Foster-Simeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
“One of the things about soccer is that it’s a low-cost sport, both boys and girls can play it equally and what we’ve found is you design a program properly, you get positive health outcomes,” Foster-Simeon said.
Soccer is continuing to grow, with over 3 million players registered with the U.S. Youth Soccer Association last year from just 100,000 players registered in 1976.
With these numbers, the caucus hopes to bring more soccer-specific stadiums to the U.S. and attract a larger international audience and a World Cup bid.
“I’m non-partisan, I just look at the opportunity for a good game where both Republicans and Democrats come together in good spirit and good fun and have fun together, they actually have fun out here together,” said Foster-Simeon.