“Honestly, It’s Everything”: BC Students Reflect on Joy of 2022 World Cup

Between July 1, 2014 and Nov. 21, 3,065 days passed—nearly nine years.

After being eliminated from the World Cup in 2014, it took 3,065 days for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team to score a goal in a World Cup again. Eight days after that, the United States won its first World Cup game in 2022.   

Gregory Evans, MCAS ’25, still remembers where the United States last left off before 2022—a goal in the 107th minute of its 2–1 loss to Belgium in the round of 16 in 2014.

“2014 is when I started [watching the World Cup],” Evans said. “That’s when I really just embraced soccer as a whole. That was an incredible tournament. And then I feel like it builds on. It’s always like, ‘When’s the next World Cup?’” 

Evans, who watches soccer regularly, said the World Cup holds great importance for nations all over the globe. 

“I mean, it’s the flags competing against each other,” Evans said. “It’s everyone’s history, and they’re also defining their own history and their own World Cups. It’s rare, but everyone expects it. It’s all these narratives kind of bundled up. It’s a very spontaneous thing that means so much.”

But in order for the United States to compete in the first place, it took rebuilding efforts and time. In those nine years of waiting between World Cup goals, things drastically changed for the United States. Since 2014, the entire makeup of the United States’ roster has changed.

To those who only check in to watch the United States every four years, names like Sergiño Dest, Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Adams, and Weston McKennie—all members of the United States’ 2022 roster—look entirely new. Led by attackman Christian Pulisic and goalkeeper Matt Turner, the United States’ roster was the second-youngest group overall in the 2022 World Cup.

In its first match since its 2014 loss to Belgium on Nov. 21, the United States jumped out to an early 1–0 lead over Wales when Pulisic threaded the needle to Timothy Weah in the 36th minute. The United States tied Wales 1–1. 

“Pulisic lives about 20–30 minutes away from me in central Pennsylvania,” Evans said. “His first club was Dortmund, which is the club I [support]. That was just crazy to see. A young American breaking through on my favorite team. I mean, that’s when sports kind of become more than sports.”  

Evans said that seeing Pulisic play in the World Cup after growing up so close to him brought a human aspect to the game.

“We probably had the same area code on our phone number growing up and he just scored in a World Cup to send us to the round of 16,” Evans said. “It just brings a sense that it’s more human. It’s very emotional, but it seems distant from the every day. That kind of just grounded it for me.” 

Heading into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, expectations for the United States’ performance were low. 

“We didn’t struggle in qualification, but it wasn’t pretty,” Evans said. “I wasn’t expecting us to get out of the group, but I feel like you kind of had to have hope. Hype builds. If we [had beaten] the Netherlands [in the round of 16] there was a chance the U.S. was playing against Argentina and Messi. That’s just ridiculous to say out loud.”

Bexi Ainsworth, MCAS ’24, said in England, soccer culture has a diehard nature. Ainsworth said soccer is a way of life for people in England—a religion of sorts. 

“Honestly, it’s everything,” Ainsworth said. “My entire family basically revolves around the British Premier [League], and I’m a Manchester City fan, so whenever they play, I gotta cancel whatever plans I got. The World Cup is exactly the same.” 

Ainsworth said when the World Cup is being watched in England, the entire country stops. 

For Premier League fans in London, Manchester and Liverpool, club rivalries vanish during the World Cup, she said. Ainsworth said soccer culture in England, created through an enthusiastic fan environment, is part of the foundation of the sport of soccer itself.

“It’s just a community,” Ainsworth said. “I love the community whenever I go to games in England, and how like, if you’re wearing the same jersey as someone, they’ll just be a friend—they’ll even buy you a drink.” 

Ian Chung, MCAS ’26, said he also sees a difference in how Americans value soccer and how Europeans do. As a nod to its European origins, Chung forbids calling soccer by its American name, but rather opts to use the term “football.” For Chung, there’s no other argument to be made.

“Oh, it’s football, definitely, definitely football, it’s gotta be football,” Chung said. “In the U.S., they made American football and called it football, so football—real football—became soccer.”

Ainsworth said she alternates what name she uses to refer to the sport, but she doesn’t understand why Americans introduced the name soccer. 

“It depends on who I’m talking to,” Ainsworth said. “I grew up playing, so obviously with all my friends it’s soccer. With my family, we have football. So I personally think it’s football because I don’t really know where soccer came from, especially the concept of it.” 

Evans has an opposing view. 

“I’ll say football sometimes, like, ‘oh, that’s beautiful football,’” Evans said. “But everyone around me called it soccer while growing up, and I mean … there was this thing called the American Revolutionary War a few years ago. [England has] to embrace it.”

Nevertheless, it’s a debate that’s rattled fans for decades

But the World Cup, Chung said, functions as a catalyst for unity between countries—a phenomenon that he appreciates. 

“[The World Cup] definitely has more meaning behind it,” Chung said. “Like even in the last game, it was Korea versus Brazil. Son [Heung-min] and Richarlison [de Andrade], they’re on the same club team, but they’re going against each other as a representative of their own country. Like they’re playing [against each other] but they also have this major respect for each other.”

Five years ago, Chung became a Tottenham Spurs fan because of Son, who has become a growing sports figure in Asia

“He is one of [Tottenham’s] key players and he is Korean,” Chung said. “And yeah, he’s obviously been influential because he’s one of the soccer stars in Europe. Everyone just knows who Son is—if they know soccer.” 

As a role model for many soccer fans, the hype around Son exploded, according to Chung, as the World Cup neared. South Korea advanced to the round of 16 with Son as one of its prominent leaders. 

“In South Korea, all the teenagers, they just want to buy his jersey,” Chung said. “And I know that even in Europe, it’s very expensive to buy. He’s that popular.”

On Dec. 2 and Dec. 5, Boston College Korean Student Association hosted a watch party for South Korea’s matches against Portugal and Brazil, respectively. Chung, who helped organize the event, said the watch party had a thrilling atmosphere. 

“A lot of people came,” Chung said. “All of us cheered [on] Korea together, and everyone was extremely excited that Korea actually beat Portugal. Monday, it was kind of cold, but we weren’t even upset. The fact that we were all together and gathered one way or another was really special.”

Chung said he wasn’t too upset over South Korea’s elimination, and is still invested in the tournament despite their loss. 

“I thought there was no way,” Chung said when asked if he thought South Korea would make it out of the group stage. “But now there’s hope. [South Korea beating Portugal] was out of the realm of expectation, but it was very impressive. I was just happy we got [to the round of 16]. I’ll keep watching. Brazil has some of my favorite players and is just built different.” 

Evans has a similar perspective. For him, this feeling of relief is exactly what the World Cup is all about. 

“It was a sigh of relief,” Evans said of the United States’ win over Iran to enter the round of 16. “U.S. soccer fans had been hauled in for eight years. [2014] is now attached to a bygone era. It’s such a sigh of relief, and like, okay, we’re here now, so let’s just make the most out of what we got to witness.”

December 9, 2022