“With soccer, you can show your full potential and all the work you went through. If you don’t work you can’t achieve it,” Emily said.
Butler Fury started off in 2011 with just two club teams, one for girls and one for boys. The group has now expanded to seven teams, and many have played together for years. During the season, each team in the competitive league plays eight league games and at least two tournaments. The league camps officially begin on July 23, but many players are keeping their skills sharp during the summer.
Isabel Steen is recovering from an ankle injury that happened last season. But she helps her sister practice her skills and expects to be cleared to return as goalie before the season starts.
“It’s a way to be active and a way to make friends,” Isabel said.
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The team aspect of soccer is a major attraction to both girls. Emily has played with many of the same girls for four years, and her coach Jason Spraunce has followed the team as they grew older and expanded.
“It’s almost like a proud father kind of thing,” Spraunce said.
Spraunce said that more girls are watching soccer at all levels, inspired by the U.S. Women’s World Cup championships in 1999 and 2015. Tad Steen, meanwhile, says that the relative safety and physical toughness are drawing in more guys.
“Especially on the men’s side, I see a lot more athletes trying out,” Steen said. “I think it’s gonna keep growing as an alternative to American football.”
On Sunday, Spraunce will be hosting a watch party for the World Cup final at his house. Many girls on his U13 team will be there, as well as players from other teams in the league. Spraunce said he was in France when the team won the Cup in 1998.
“The place went crazy for three days straight,” he remembered.
Isabel is rooting for France on Sunday. Emily is rooting for Croatia, the surprise underdog that has never been to a World Cup final before.
The World Cup final airs at 11 a.m. on Sunday.