The indoor soccer facility showcases local soccer talent of all ages and backgrounds and, despite some early struggles, support from the surrounding community continues to grow.
Soccer World is in its third year of operation and this season has been one of the women's semi-pro team's best since it formed in 2010.
“Our first year was rough because we were eliminated in the semi-finals of the playoffs, but last year we won nationals and so far we’re undefeated this season,” said owner Brian Montenegro. “Every year we have more and more people come out for tryouts. It’s growing and that’s nice.”
The Soccer World FC women’s team played against league rivals SSA Azteca, based in Natomas, Saturday and won 7-3 to stay undefeated at 7-0 this season. With one more game against Chico on July 21, Soccer World can have a perfect record for the season with a win and advance to the national championships in Las Vegas.
In addition to the team's early struggles on the field, the Soccer World facility had to deal with conflicts off the field as well. Montenegro said residents near the facility were unhappy about the traffic it brought to the residential area.
“There were issues and we had protests along Kent Street. It was a little tough at first to deal with,” Montenegro said.
He also said the protests have since died down and the surrounding community has embraced the games played at the arena.
“I haven’t heard any complaints since, and our semi-pro girls are pretty good, so the community comes out to watch them play,” Montenegro said. “It gives the residents something to do in Elk Grove and kids can come watch the teams play–something positive for the community to do.
“A few of the people who protested years ago now play here at the arena, go figure.”
Soccer World FC Women's Team Provides Challenging Environment
Soccer World's semi-pro teams consist of male and female soccer players from ages 17 and up with prior soccer experience. Most of the players either play for a college team as well or have played in college and participate to continue playing soccer.
The facility also hosts youth soccer, co-ed leagues and pickup games.
Nicole Duff of Elk Grove played soccer for four years at Fresno State from 2007 to 2011. She says that playing for Soccer World FC has provided her with an opportunity to continue playing competitive soccer after college.
“Once you’ve played soccer for four years in college, you don’t want to stop,” Duff said. “You want to play for fun and continue to do it for fun so Soccer World has been great for me.”
Paula Davis, the oldest player on the women’s team at 36, said that she has always enjoyed playing competitive soccer even after graduating college as well.
“That competitive spirit never goes away, even after all these years for me,” Davis said. “It’s intense, especially when you’re with a really good team, it feels good to play with girls who are really skilled and play real well.”
Some of the players on the team coach the youth soccer teams of Soccer World as well. Erika Anguiano (who goes by the nickname "Boots"), who moved to Elk Grove from Reno and played soccer at Cosumnes River College, said it's great that younger girls come watch their games.
“For the youth girls to come out and watch us play means a lot since they look up to us,” Anguiano said.
Davis said that she also tries to set a good example for her own kids as well.
“I have three small girls, so for them to come out and watch me play, I’m pretty much being a role model to them,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long it’s been (since you’ve played), but if you work hard on the field, you’ll do well.”
With the intense competition that is showcased at Soccer World, Montenegro says that certain games attract those on the professional level as well.
“Sometimes there are scouts that come out to the games from the women’s pro level and the men’s pro level,” he said. “There’s been players from the men’s league that have gone all the way up to the MLS.
“This (Soccer World) can be a catalyst for players–it can do a lot,” he said. They’re already playing at a high level and once you get to nationals at Vegas, competition will be even higher because it will be more intense. You may be playing three games in one day even.”
In addition to the enjoyment of playing competitive soccer, what the players and Montenegro get out of Soccer World the most, he said, is more than just the competition itself.
“The biggest thing for us is that we provide entertainment, an event for the people of Elk Grove to come out and see their local players play at a higher level than they’ve seen before,” he said. “Ultimately the community benefits from it, so it gives us something that we can be a part of and cheer for their local players and who wouldn’t want to cheer for the local talent. Nobody else is doing this in Elk Grove, so this is just something that we can call our own.”
Do you play at Soccer World? Have you watched a game there? What do you think of the facility? Tell us in the comments section.