The upcoming movie examines how the U.S. can learn from other countries on how to take the sport into inner-city neighborhoods
Riyad Mahrez, Ferland Mendy and Rose Lavelle are among those who will feature in Soccer in the City , a documentary which is set to be released next month.
Goal can exclusively reveal the second trailer of the movie, produced by The Content Farm, which tells the story of the complicated relationship with the sport in the United States.
Opportunities to play in urban areas and the country’s pay-to-play system have been put under the microscope since the U.S. men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Soccer in the City aims to explore them further, speaking to players such as Lavelle and Mark McKenzie, of Philadelphia Union, who grew up in the system.
Chelsea’s Matt Miagza and former Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Reyna also offer their perspectives of playing U.S. youth soccer, but the movie expands to France too, speaking to the likes of Mahrez and Mendy about their experiences.
Beyond the high-profile names are a collective of individuals and organizations, such as America SCORES, dedicated to giving urban communities the chance to play soccer.
“It’s kind of a passion project,” says executive producer and director Michael Holstein, describing it as “focusing on the stories and characters and making it a film that introduces some amazing people and tells their stories”.
Among those passionate individuals is Assane Thiam, the former Paris Saint-Germain footballer who, after his career was ended aged 17 by injury, co-ordinated this year’s Mercurial boot launch with Nike, hosting it in his very own neighborhood.
“[That] is what they do in inner-city Paris to engage kids from low income neighborhoods,” says co-producer Ahsan Naeem.
“It’s a great way to show what could be done in New York, in Washington, in Chicago in terms of trying to raise awareness of soccer within inner-city, but also to use soccer as a tool for social change and social good.
“This conversation within ‘Soccer in the City’ is saying, how do we take a sport like soccer, which is massively underrepresented in inner-city neighborhoods, and bring it into those neighborhoods?”
This conversation was further explored recently on Naeem’s 93:20 podcast, on which he was joined by the film’s narrator, and ESPN senior writer, Gabriele Marcotti.
“These were issues I was very familiar with as a kid because I had friends who played football in the States, both in the suburbs and in the city,” says Marcotti.
“In the U.S. – although this is changing – the sport has had suburban, middle class, Caucasian connotations and it’s difficult to break that cycle in the current set-up.
“There’s 24 MLS clubs right now and they’re in 22 cities. They may be big cities, but it’s a small footprint in such a large country. What happens to everybody else? How do they get into the system? These are just some of the challenges.”
As well as the D.C. premiere on October 17, events in New York, Paris and Manchester are also set to be confirmed, with the wide release dates to be confirmed.
“We have an offer from US public television and streaming platforms [for US and UK distribution] and remain in talks with other distributors, focused on which will help us get as wide an audience as possible and be the best partner to share this story,” Holstein said.