What is it?

The Homeless World Cup is a soccer tournament with purpose. Member Countries and the Homeless World Cup Foundation’s year-round work culminates in a world class event which has the power to change the lives of participants and shape attitudes towards this global issue, using the universal language of soccer. 

The tournament has taken place for 20 years and in cities across the world. Sacramento is the first U.S. city to host this prestigious and inspiring event. 

The Homeless World Cup Foundation is a unique, pioneering charity which uses soccer to inspire people who are homeless to change their own lives through the power of the beautiful game, and to change public perceptions of homelessness and the issues around it. 

The Homeless World Cup operates through a network of more than 70 Member Countries across the globe to support soccer programmes. It delivers an annual, world-class, international soccer tournament for national teams of men and women who are homeless or have experienced homelessness.

Who’s hosting the Homeless World Cup? 

The tournament is supported by numerous organisations, but some are key to the delivery of a successful tournament for players, spectators and intended social impact. For the Sacramento 2023 Homeless World Cup they include the Homeless World Cup Foundation, Street Soccer USA and California State University, Sacramento. 

Street Soccer USA is the host organisation and proud to bring the Homeless World Cup to the U.S. for the first time. Street Soccer USA is on a mission to fight poverty and strengthen communities through soccer. it succeeds in this by creating a safe place to play, supplying trained, caring coaches and using evidence-based curriculum to build important skills and purpose.   

California State University, Sacramento will serve as the host site for both the competition (Hornet Stadium) and athlete housing, creating a truly unique experience for the athletes to be on an American college campus. Under the leadership of Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen, the university has been a pivotal partner in creating a space and experience of acceptance and belonging for all the teams and attendees.

Why is it in Sacramento?

As the capital city to the fifth largest economy in the world, Sacramento was on the global stage long before the Homeless World Cup. Sacramento is considered one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., and as such, most of its residents either play or watch soccer. It is home to one of the largest youth soccer communities, WPSL National Champion California Storm and 2014 USL Championship Club Sacramento Republic FC. You could say it should be called Soccermento

It’s climate, geographic location near three international airports and state-of-the art facilities has allowed Sacramento to host sporting events ranging from Ironman to World’s Strongest Man to U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.    

But the biggest reason is the incredible support from Sacramento State, regional leaders, businesses and volunteers who advocated to host the Homeless World Cup since 2019. Sacramento State will be able to provide a level of hospitality, belonging and engagement for athletes like no previous tournament, including accommodations in student housing and access to their world class facilities. Nearly 300 volunteers have signed up to participate and donate their time. They are joined by civic and business leaders that are funding the costs that go into hosting the event.  All of which is led under the host organisation, Street Soccer USA. 

The goal is to create awareness, healing and hope for a global crisis that hits too close to home in Sacramento. By showing how strong, courageous and resilient these athletes are that are competing in the Homeless World Cup, we may also realize those same qualities can be found in each of us. 

Are the players homeless?

This tournament is about bringing hope, inspiration and healing to an epidemic that has plagued countries around the world, and which demands patience, focus, and for the world to come together to provide real ways to help those who are struggling with homelessness.

Players attending the tournament will have experienced being homeless within the last two years or currently be homeless since the last Homeless World Cup (Cardiff 2019). Homelessness is defined according to the national context of each country.

Participants must be at least 16 years old and have not taken part in a previous Homeless World Cup tournament.

Being homeless can be incredibly isolating, making people feel removed from society and alone. Joining a soccer team can be a small but hugely significant step in helping an individual to feel part of a community. The athletes that are selected are done so because of the support and stability they currently have via existing programs and the commitment and resilience they have shown in their journey.  

Why is it called Homeless World Cup?

There is only one universal language – soccer. Or for most of the world football. Sports has been a means to heal individuals and provide hope for communities. The Homeless World Cup is no different as it uses the platform of the world’s game to address a global crisis.  

This is a soccer tournament for the homeless, or those that recently experienced homelessness. 

The Homeless World Cup was co-founded by Mel Young and Harald Schmied, who came up with the idea and tournament name following a conference about homelessness in 2001. They wanted to change the lives of homeless people all over the world, and they believed soccer could help them do it. 

The Homeless World Cup is the highlight of the year for our global Member Countries and provides an aspirational goal for players. The experience is transformational for both participants and members of the audience and challenges attitudes towards homelessness. 

What is the impact? 

In a case study following the 2019 tournament, over 6.4 million people engaged with the event with 276 members of the press attending. 175 volunteers helped support the event and 23,000 people attended in person. Most importantly, it changed the conversation. Following Glasgow, 86% of attendees felt more aware of the issues tied to homelessness. 94% were positively impacted. And 77% said the tournament significantly changed their lives. For the participants, 76% continue to enjoy and play the sport following the tournament. 

On a national stage, Street Soccer USA has seen 92% of their participants improve social and emotional skills, and 68% improve chronic absenteeism. As a whole, 75% of their adult participants connect to housing, employment, education or rehabilitation support within a year of joining their program; all through the game of soccer.  

How long has the tournament taken place? 

The first Homeless World Cup tournament took place in Graz, Austria in 2003, and the event and network have been growing steadily ever since, occupying a pioneering role in the field of Sport and Development.

From Paris to Cardiff and Melbourne to Cape Town, this world class tournament has been played at exceptional venues to bring awareness and understanding to this world problem – homelessness.

How many athletes will participate? 

Over 50 countries and 500 athletes, representing mens and womens teams, will participate in the 2023 Homeless World Cup. There are 80,000 – 100,000 players involved in member country programmes with only 500 being selected to represent their country at the Homeless World Cup. Players can only play once at the tournament. Since its first year, over 1 million athletes have played in this global competition. 

Players represent their country in front of a supportive audience when previously they could feel removed from mainstream society. Our 70+ Global Member Countries, like Street Soccer USA, use soccer as part of their wider community programmes. When players return from a Homeless World Cup, a huge percentage of them improve their lives through education, employment in social enterprises and other businesses, substance abuse rehabilitation, and supported housing. 

What cities have hosted it in the past? 

Past host cities have included: Cardiff (2019), Mexico City (2018, 2012), Oslo (2017), Glasgow (2016), Amsterdam (2015), Santiago (2014), Poznan (2013), Paris (2011), Rio De Janeiro (2010), Milan (2009), Melbourne (2008), Copenhagen (2007), Cape Town (2006), Edinburgh (2005), Gothenburg (20040 and Graz (2003). 

What countries are participating in 2023? 

Covering six continents and 50 countries, the world is coming to Sacramento. For the most current list, click here >>

Isn’t there a movie about it? 

Yes! There are two. In 2008, a documentary called “Kicking It” was released that focussed on the experiences of the athletes in the tournament. More recently, Netflix is preparing to debut a movie inspired by the Homeless World Cup called “The Beautiful Game” which features actual athletes and coaches from the tournament. It stars Bill Nighy, Valeria Golino, Susan Wokoma and Michael Ward. Stay tuned for a release date!  

What is the tournament format?

Street Soccer, the format played at the Homeless World Cup is played on a pitch/court between two teams which is 22 meters / 72 feet (long) x 16 meters / 52 feet (wide)., which is lightly smaller than a basketball court.  This is a quick, high speed, high scoring – and high action – format.  

Each team has a maximum of 4 players per team on the court: 3 outfield players and 1 goalkeeper, plus 4 substitute players (‘flying’ or ‘rolling’ substitutions apply) 

The Homeless World Cup division  includes men’s and co-ed teams The Women’s Homeless World Cup division welcomes women’s teams. 

The Homeless World Cup tournament structure has three stages of competition and several different trophies to win on finals day.

First Stage
After the draw, each team plays all the other teams in their group once. Their relative position in the preliminary group determines the group they will play in during the Second Stage.

Second Stage
Each team plays each other team in its Group once in a round robin format. Once all the Group games have been completed, the teams’ final position determines the last Stage of the competition. Teams that finish first or second within their group advance to play for the Homeless World Cup (men’s/or teams with men and women players) or Women’s Homeless World Cup (women’s). 

Trophy Stage
Eight teams compete for each trophy, with each competition now following the standard form of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. This includes placing games for all teams. All teams play three games in the Trophy Stage.

The structure of the tournament ensures that each team plays matches until the final day of competition. The standard of soccer varies considerably across teams, and as the tournament progresses, teams become more evenly matched in terms of skill which provides a rewarding experience for players and audience alike.

How long are the games?

Each match is 14 minutes long with two halves of 7 minutes each plus a one-minute interval in between each half. The soccer being played is fast-paced and averages 10 goals per game over the 400+ games of the tournament across the 8 days. 

There are no draws – in the case of a draw at the end of normal time games go to sudden death penalties. 

Fair Play is a key factor in tournament progression with cards received more important than goal difference reflecting the values and spirit of the competition.

You can download the rules here.

Can the public attend? How much are tickets? 

Yes! The event is free and open to the public. We do encourage you to reserve your seat ahead of time; donations option. Parking is also free. Visit the schedule for more details >>

If I can’t attend, can I watch it online?

The tournament will be streamed via YouTube. Visit the schedule page for links and updates >>

How is the tournament funded? 

The tournament is funded through a combination of donations and grants through individuals, companies and government entities. To become a sponsor or donate, please visit here >>