The Wilmington football scene is optimistic and excited as the 2022 World Cup begins

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) — Soccer fans in Southeast North Carolina are thrilled as the United States Men’s National Soccer Team competes in the World Cup for the first time since 2014.

The team took on Wales to a 1-1 draw on Monday, but fans at Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux seemed happy to be able to watch Team USA in action on the world’s biggest stage.

“We missed it last time out and it’s good that we have a nice young squad and that’s something to look forward to,” said Michael Pawlewicz. “And it’s great to be, you know, we were talking about this earlier, you know, everyone’s a fan of the same team, so everyone’s cheering for the same team, which makes it great.”

North Carolina is no stranger to the football scene. The Wilmington Hammerheads professional side played in the port city for around 20 years before disbanding in 2017.

It didn’t take long, however, for a new team to call the Carolinas home, as new MLS team Charlotte FC made their debut earlier this year, breaking league attendance records in his first game.

The World Cup, however, brings a different energy, and fans like Pawlewicz are hoping the event will bring a new generation of fans into the sport and are happy to see so many people tuning in.

“I think you’re starting to see it. I think you’re starting to see smaller camps and groups of teams in different areas, and I think it’s going to become a bit more of a national pastime,” Pawlewicz said. “See, MLS is doing very well with fans everywhere, so I think it’s only a matter of time.”

Regarding the future of Wilmington’s football scene, Carson Porter leads the Hammerheads’ youth football program and says the city plans to open the new nCino sports park soon, which will bring grass, new grounds and permanent lighting at the complex.

He hopes children in the Cape Fear area watching the World Cup can relate to the USA team which had one of the youngest core groups in the world, with an average age of 25.

“I just want them to have heroes and people they look up to and want to be like,” Porter said. “And if they do that, then those kind of sparks, you know, that inspires some of them to come out and do more. So I just want them to watch, have fun, hang out, have fun around them, hang out. I mean, all those things that the World Cup generates.

Porter says the World Cup can create the next generation of football players in our region.

“I think it inspires,” Porter said. “I mean, that’s where it starts, I think, you know, kids watching this, these games, you know, they go out and kick the ball, and then anything can happen. If you ask these players who are preparing to leave for our country, the idea of ​​them playing in a World Cup was just a dream.

Two former Wilmington Hammerheads professional squad members are on this year’s World Cup rosters: Canada’s Marc-Anthony Kaye and Cameroon’s Christian Bassogog.

A local group has announced plans to bring a professional football team back to Wilmington. To learn more, click here.

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