The Eagles’ — and soccer’s — Cup does not runneth over

Jared Barbosa heard the news the other day and, soccer devotee that he is, felt an instant rush.

Then almost immediately it died down.

The news that the FIFA World Cup would be coming to the United States – and likely Gillette Stadium for a couple of games – in 2026 was great.

But then the co-owner of the Eagles of the International Soccer Club of Nashua realized how far in the future that would be.

“That’s 2026,” he said. “That’s eight years from now. Seriously, it’s really exciting, but then, wait – that’s almost 10 years away. My kid at that time is going to almost be a teenager.”

It was a silver linining on top of another silver lining.The U.S.didn’t qualify for the current World Cup, but it’s going to be hosting part of the World Cup, but that won’t be until eight years from now.

It’s with mixed emotions that Barbosa and his soccer fraternity will be watching the current World Cup games. Remember four years ago? The country was catching soccer fever, and there was the usual buzz that the sport would finally take hold from a spectator standpoint. That didn’t happen, but there were a lot of gatherings, World Cup parties, fun and early summer excitement. Soccer benefited.

Now? There’s excitement but it’s limited to the soccer fraternity. The general draw isn’t there because of the lack of U.S.involvement.

“It’s pure excitement because it’s so long (about a month),” Barbosa said. “But oh, man, what a letdown. That costs us fans, the ones who are just getting into the game. Let’s put it this way – it doesn’t help.”

It’s definitely not the same, but now Barbosa has an added lament in not having the U.S.involved. He’s co-owner of a semi-pro soccer team that would benefit greatly at the gate from a soccer resurgence similar to the one briefly experienced four years ago. The Eagles crowds have been much better than that raw, rainy opening day back in early-to-mid May, but with two home games left at Rivier’s Raider Field (before the post season) on June 24 and July 7, they could have really capitalized on Soccer Fever. One of their main sponsors, a popular downtown Nashua watering hole, is having viewing parties with the Eagles involved, but the lament of no U.S.team is felt. “Big time,” Barbosa said.

The irony is the fact there’s no U.S. Team in World Cup is one of the reasons this local franchise exists. The United Premier Soccer League has several levels, and expanded to try to give U.S. Soccer a boost. The Eagles play in a league with several college and post-college players, created to enhance skill and give the cream some more competition to legitimately rise to the top.

“The system of soccer in America, for the lower level, it’s still building,” Barbosa said. “I think it is moving in the right direction. I think the UPSL is moving in the right direction. What’s happened is all this has come to the forefront.”

There’s still excitement for the Eagles players, especially several, including leading scorer Quincy Appah, with an international background/heritage.

“All countries, Brazilians, Columbians, Mexico, Nigeria, we have players from all over,” Barbosa said. “When the competition comes around, these players are just wanting to go out there, they’re very excited (about the World Cup). …

“But the thing is if you’re living in this country, everyone is anticipating the U.S to make it to the World Cup.”

But the U.S. is not there, and Barbosa and his franchise has mixed emotions and just can’t capitalize on the opportunity.

“It sure doesn’t help but it’s certainly not the end of the world,” he said. “In regards to growth of our fan base we see it as a spring, not a marathon. We have a stratgic plan in place not only to grow our fan base but also our organization year to year by providing different programs and services.”

But oh, what immediate fun this would have been.

“The U.S.is always the underdog (in soccer),” Barbosa said. “Everyone loves the underdog.

“But as exciting as it is, you won’t watch it as much because the U.S.isn’t in it.

“It’s awkward.”

And that’s not something soccer, or teams like the ISCN Eagles, need right now. Hopefully better days are ahead.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.tking@nashuatelegraph.com