Congress, Fans Play in 1st Capital Soccer Classic

Members of Congress, former U.S. National Team players join kids for day of activities
by Peter Muller   |   Thursday, April 25, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation staged the Capital Soccer Classic at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday evening.

The event was part of the Foundation’s Urban Soccer Symposium and included a youth soccer clinic with D.C. United players; adult soccer games; a featured match with members of Congress and former U.S. National Team players Claudio Reyna, John Harkes, Cobi Jones, Eddie Pope, Tiffany Roberts and John O’Brien; and, an appearance by U.S. Men’s National Team managerJurgen Klinsmann.

“This is the inaugural Capital Soccer Classic and it’s an effort to raise the visibility of the game in Washington, not only as a sport but as part of the fabric of life in this country,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, the Foundation’s President and C.E.O.

For the members of Congress, it was an opportunity to play with and against some of their heroes.

 “Until today, I thought the best moment of 2013 was being sworn-in to Congress. But now, playing on same field with John Harkes, Cobi Jones, Tiffany Roberts – players that I grew up admiring – that has to rival it,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House of Representatives from California. “I coached a youth team on Tiffany Roberts Field in San Ramon, so to play with Tiffany Roberts tonight was quite an honor.”

Swalwell and Rep. Todd Young (Ind.), who played on the varsity soccer team at the United States Naval Academy, displayed their college-level abilities. Young was active all over the field and Swalwell made a number of fine saves during a stint in goal in the second half.

The teams were captained by the co-chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Dave Reichert (Wash.). Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.) also saw time on the pitch.

But it was the former national team players who dazzled the crowd and accounted for most of the scoring. The game ended in a draw after regulation time and had to be decided by penalty kicks, with victory going to the “gold” team.

Peter Muller Capital Soccer Classic

The congressional soccer game also served as an opportunity for the U.S. Soccer Foundation to promote its policy agenda with members of Congress.  

“We want them to be aware of the important role that soccer can play not only as a recreational activity but also as an activity that has positive social benefits and can address important national issues,” said Foster-Simeon.

The Foundation advocates for legislation in Congress to fight childhood obesity and to redevelop or create new recreational facilities in urban areas, and the agenda for the Urban Soccer Symposium includes a Capitol Hill lobbying day.

“One in three children are overweight or obese in this country and that is even more pronounced in underserved communities, low income communities where children don’t have access to programming, they don’t have easy access to healthy food,” said Foster-Simeon. “So providing them with programming that gives them the physical activity they need, educates them on making good healthy food choices, and the importance of staying physically active and leading a healthy and active lifestyle is incredibly important.”

Klinsmann spoke to the crowd during the pre-game festivities and talked about the need to expose kids to the game at a young age.

“We have millions of kids playing it now at a very competitive level but also on a recreational level and this is just wonderful to see,” he said.

Swalwell attributes the development of the sport in this country, and the interest in events like the Capital Soccer Classic, in large part to the success of the women’s national team.

“Twenty years ago I don’t think you’d see the interest that this garnered from members of Congress or people who showed up to support it,” he said. “It was women who put it on the map, the 1999 Women’s World Cup team. From there you just saw a boom in this country and they really inspired a lot of young girls to join the sport and got those girls’ fathers and mothers to also notice the sport by coaching and being soccer moms and soccer dads.”

The U.S. Soccer foundation sees the Capitol Soccer Classic as a further step toward growing the game in the United States while providing healthy opportunities for inner city kids.

“It’s a full day of just trying to enable people to enjoy the important role this game plays in our society,” said Foster-Simeon. 


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.