For some time I’ve been trying to build a list of Mormons playing soccer throughout the world, and over time I think I’ve come up with a start of one. So far I’ve found about a dozen Mormons who have ever played professional soccer somewhere in the world. Amazingly enough, three of these have played at the World Cup level. But only 2 of these are playing now, and one of these two is playing in the U.S. In addition one Mormon is coaching at the professional level and another at the NCAA Division I level (outside of the BYU teams).
The numbers are so small in comparison to other sports (including Rugby, which isn’t very popular in the U.S.) that I have to believe that I’m missing many more players.
First let’s look at the best—those who have played at the World Cup level or on national teams in International competition. The best-known Mormon to have played on a national team is Aleisha Cramer Rose, who played with the U.S. Women’s team in the 1998 Women’s World Cup. She stopped playing competitively when she married.
Another world-class player is Freddy Rincón, who played on the Colombia national team from 1990 to 2001, several years before he joined the Church. As I understand it, Rincón was baptized in 2005 while he was in São Paulo, Brazil after playing for Corinthians. Since he retired from playing, Rincón has coached several Brazilian second and third level and youth teams.
Perhaps the best or most successful Mormon soccer player is the Brazilian Milton Queirós da Paixão, known to Brazilian soccer fans as Tita. (pronounced Cheeta). Tita played for the Brazilian national team from 1979 to 1990 after making a name for himself on perhaps the greatest Brazilian soccer team of all time, Flamengo (of Rio de Janeiro) of 1978-1983. That team went 52 games in succession without a loss (43-9-0) in 1978-1979 and twice won the Brazilian championship. He was also with the national team when Brazil won the Americas cup in 1989. Since 2000 he has been a coach at a series of teams, including the El Paso Patriots, the Chivas affiliate in the USL Premiere Development League. He currently coaches the Necaxa club in Aguascalientes, Mexico (2nd level).
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Tita is, of course, the Mormon currently coaching a professional team. But the other Mormon coach, who works on the collegiate level, is also very impressive—and impressive as a coach. Anson Dorrance, head coach of the UNC Tarheels women’s soccer team, has been nothing short of dominant in collegiate women’s soccer. In fact, Dorrance could claim to have co-founded collegiate women’s soccer, since he was one of those who asked the NCAA women’s program predecessor Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to start a national women’s soccer program in the U.S. Since then, Dorrance’s teams have won 20 of the 28 national women’s soccer championships and Dorrance himself has been named national coach of the year eight times. From 1986 to 1994 Dorrance also coached the U.S. women’s national soccer team, leading it to its win of the first ever Women’s Word Cup in 1991.
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So, who are the current active players?—at least those that I know about?
Only one, Guillermo Franco, plays outside the United States. Franco is an Argentine, and, after joining the LDS Church in 2002 as a youth, rose to play for the division 1 Godoy Cruz team, before taking a two-year hiatus to serve an LDS mission. When he returned in 2007, he played for Godoy Cruz for two years before he was loaned to a series of 2nd league teams, this past season Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy.
The other player is Jacob Hustedt, who was drafted earlier this year by the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS. While Hustedt, a Midfielder, is on the team, he hasn’t yet played in a game — but I recently learned that Jacob has been told that he will play in one of the upcoming games. Keep an eye out.