North American World Cup a boon for local soccer

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BENNINGTON — The 2026 World Cup might be eight years away, but when the United bid put forth by the United States, Canada and Mexico won the vote taken by FIFA, it set off a lot of excitement locally for the event.

Three of the 17 possible host sites between the three countries — Boston, New York City and Montreal — are less than a four-hour drive from southern Vermont and eastern New York.

Two more, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are not that much farther.

The U.S. will be a host for the World Cup for the first time since 1994, and after that event — won by Brazil — soccer in the U.S. exploded at the youth levels.

Burr and Burton boys soccer coach Pete Mull said the interest will be higher with the tournament in North America. The United bid was chosen over a bid from Morocco in North Africa.

"It's difficult to over-estimate the importance and influence of it," Mull said. "After the 1994 tournament, Major League Soccer developed as a result and the attendance record was set and still stands. It's good any time it's closer to home

Mount Anthony boys soccer coach Mike Molloy said some of the kids in school were already excited hearing the announcement.

"It puts a lot of attention on U.S. soccer," Molloy said. "Soccer now is more of a world phenomenon. It's exciting for the next generation to have them looking forward."

A ninth-grader playing soccer this fall would be 23 in 2026, so Molloy said the middle and high-school age players today will be able to see guys similar in age competing in the international tournament.

"Even without the U.S. in the World Cup (in Russia) this year, people are excited about it," Molloy said. "For the growth of soccer [here], there's a new coach and new emphasis on youth development, which is good for our youth players."

The 2026 tournament will be the biggest ever, with 48 teams, and the final is set to be at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

"The kids now emulate guys like [Lionel] Messi and Ronaldo," Mull said. "We can hold our own with the best in the world, I think we're on the cusp of being a world power in soccer."


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