The Homeless World Cup uses football to inspire and demonstrate the power of sport in changing people’s lives. Our tournament brings a sense of purpose to those who may feel like they’ve lost theirs. It’s also a football competition of the highest quality with some outstanding talent on display.”

So declares Mel Young, Co-founder and Homeless World Cup President. Today, Saturday July 8th, the 18th edition of this global soccer competition kicks off at California State University, Sacramento. As well as the venue for the games, the university will also accommodate the visiting countries from across the globe and their players on campus. Matches will be played on three street soccer fields set up in Hornet Stadium. The event ends on July 15th. 

Homeless World Cup

Hornet Stadium, Sacramento, California (Photo: Spatms. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

The women’s competition involves teams from 15 countries: Austria, Burkina Faso, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Norway, Romania, Sweden, USA, Wales, and Zambia.

The men’s competition involves teams from 33 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, USA, and Wales.

According to the event rules, to qualify to play in the tournament, the athletes must be at least 16 years old, have not taken part in a previous Homeless World Cup tournament, and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Have been homeless at some point in the last year, in accordance with their country’s definition of homelessness.
  • Make their main living income as street paper vendor.
  • Are asylum seekers currently without positive asylum status or were previously asylum seekers but obtained residency status.
  • Are currently in drug or alcohol rehabilitation and also have been homeless at some point in the past two years.

The first Homeless World Cup took place in Graz, Austria in 2003 with 18 teams. Since then, the event has taken place every year with the exception of 2020, 2021, and 2022 when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The California State University, Sacramento describes the event as follows: “Tournament spectators will see action that is different from traditional soccer, and the teams feature players with wide ranges of soccer experience. [The athletes] demonstrate ‘resilience and fight,’ both on and off the soccer field. To qualify for participation, players must have experienced homelessness within the previous year.”

street soccer

Street soccer in a favela, Brazil (Source: Wallpaper Flare)

Street soccer is played on fields about the size of basketball courts. A maximum of four players per team are on the field at any given time. Games are played in two halves of seven minutes each.

For more on the story behind the Homeless World Cup since its creation in 2003, read Mel Young’s book, Home Game.


Featured image: Scoring a goal at Homeless World Cup 2007 in Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo: Benno Hansen, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

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