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Congressman Boyle: Here’s why you should care about soccer

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle’s district is a hotbed for local soccer

Matt Ralph

Congressman Boyle,

Like a lot of fellow soccer fans in Pennsylvania, I was annoyed by the comments you made on Twitter following the United States’ dreadful display at Trinidad & Tobago Tuesday night that knocked them out of the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986.

I wasn’t annoyed that you’re “just not a big soccer fan” or that you “couldn’t care less about soccer” - just that you used your platform as a lawmaker to slight a sport that happens to be very popular with many of the constituents you’re supposed to represent.

Now I’m technically not one of those constituents since I own a home further down Route 476 in Delaware County, but I do know a little bit about the soccer that is played in and just outside your district.

I know this because it’s basically a local hotbed for the game.

Since you claim that you “couldn’t care less about soccer” but still cared enough to tweet about it and then double down on your bad take about how ratings “will tank” without the U.S. in the competition and that we soccer fans should all “watch the baseball playoffs,” I’m going to give you a few reasons why it’s your job to care.

The Proving Grounds, located in Conshohocken, plays host to Continental FC’s U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams and a number of other local soccer games. On any given Saturday, you can see future stars of college and Major League Soccer teams like the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and New York Red Bulls playing here. A few years ago, it even played host to qualifiers for the Generation adidas Cup, an annual competition of academy teams from MLS and clubs from around the world.

Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals has a complex in your district. No other soccer club in the region can boast the kind of history the Ukies can, which dates back to its founding in 1950. While it was formed as an amateur club, their professional team joined the American Soccer League in 1959 and went on to win six league championships and four U.S. Open Cup titles. The legacy of the club has continued with a strong youth program. Just this year, the club joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with a team added in the U12 division on the youth level.

Philadelphia Soccer Club has a complex in your district, which also plays host to games for the CASA Soccer League, the region’s largest independent adult amateur league in the region.

Bryn Athyn College and Arcadia University both field men’s and women’s soccer teams. The Bryn Athyn women’s team is having a pretty good season with a 7-3-0 record so far while Arcadia’s men’s team is 7-3-1, and their women are 9-5-0.

La Salle College High School, the defending city Catholic League and district champions, are currently 12-1-1 and ranked 12th in the region in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll. Lansdale Catholic is also a perennial power in high school soccer.

Dozens of Division 1 soccer players call your district home, including La Salle star Matt Robinson (Lansdale) and Philadelphia Union Academy grads Patrick Murphy (Lansdale), a freshman at Drexel and Duquesne freshman midfielder Omar Ayala (Norristown).

YSC Sports has a facility in Hatboro, and another one very close to where many of your constituents live near King of Prussia. YSC hosts programs for kids as young as 18 months, through adult leagues for people who want to continue playing into their 40s and 50s. Its facility near King of Prussia - and the YSC Academy across the street - is home to the Philadelphia Union Academy and Pre-Academy programs, which draws many of the best players from the region and around the country into a professional training environment meant to develop future players for the Philadelphia Union.

Which of course brings me to the Union, the local professional team which doesn’t play in your district, but nonetheless draws plenty of fans to games who you are paid to represent in the U.S. Congress. The Union haven’t been good this year, I’ll give you that, but they are still one of five professional teams that call Philadelphia home and should be respected as such even if it’s not your cup of tea.

Unlike the Phillies, who aren’t in the baseball playoffs this year, the Union also still have one remaining home game left this season. If you’re in town, I’d love to take you to that game on October 22 and tell you more about my passion for a sport that connects people and communities in ways that politicians should find admirable. The growth of the sport will certainly be hurt by the United States missing out on the World Cup, but the game is so much more than a platform for displays of nationalist pride and bars full of once every four year fans singing “I Believe That We Will Win” anyway. It’s a unifier of people from diverse backgrounds, a connector of communities and a global phenomenon far too many people in the United States, yourself included, for some reason still refuse to give the respect it is due.

Brotherly Game will even pick up the tab.

Matt Ralph