Francisco, and spent his early elementary-age days in Germany, where he first picked up the game of soccer.
“I’m still a German fan,” he said. “I’m hoping they win the World Cup. Of course I wanted the United States there, but our system of development isn’t what it needs to be — another long story there.”
He knew not to go off on that tangent, because I’d already told him I needed him to stay on topic. My biggest challenge on this day would be keeping up on my notepad with what Nicewander was saying, because he — perhaps more so than any other coach in the area — can really talk.
After a few years in Germany, Nicewander moved back to the U.S., first to Arizona and then Alaska and then Altus, Okla., where he spent his freshman-junior years of high school.
“They didn’t even have city-league soccer there,” he said. “It was one of those places where the town shuts down on Friday nights for football. In junior high there, I did a year of wrestling and some track, but I don’t even remember if I did sports in
Prior to his senior year, his family moved to Yuma, and he enrolled at Kofa — one year after the Kings soccer team won the 1989 Class AAA-I state championship.
Nicewander recalls going out for the soccer team initially, but only lasting about a week-and-a-half.
“I remember the first day of training they had us do 1,000 sit-ups,” he said. “That’s where I got that from. But I was taking college classes at night, so I couldn’t do both.”
He admits he probably ultimately would’ve been cut had he stuck around, though.
He most definitely would have been cut if he had tried to play goalie, judging by his performance against me.
In our first penalty kick round, I converted all five of my attempts while Nicewander missed off the left post on his second — ultimately proving the difference in my 5-4 victory.
Nicewander says that as a coach, he rarely has his players practice penalty kicks — but a penalty kick shootout did provide in his opinion the most memorable win of his 12-year Kofa boys soccer tenure to date. That came against rival San Luis in
the quarterfinals of the 2016 AIA Division II state tournament, when keeper Max Demara saved two Sidewinder attempts to send the Kings to the semis — one of three semifinal appearances they’ve made under Nicewander.
Presented a hypothetical scenario where Kofa was in the state championship and it came down to one penalty kick and Nicewander had his pick of any of his former players in their prime, he told me he’d want Marcos Garcia (Class of 2010) taking it or Demara (2016) trying to save it.
In our second round of penalty kicks, Nicewander put forth a bit more effort on the goalkeeping end — unsuccessfully diving for one ball, and coming up with a save on another.
But victory would escape him, because his second and third shots both clanked off the crossbar — giving me a 4-2 victory in the round, and a two-round sweep of him in the competition. What went wrong? “I thought your reaction time would be quicker than it was,” Nicewander explained. So he went for perfectly placed shots, when “I should have just put it on frame.”
Even in victory, I still looked pretty pathetic. major construction work required on the 16 planned stadiums, all of which already exist.
The U.S. proposed staging 60 out of the 80 games in 2026, when 16 teams will be added to the tournament, leaving Canada and Mexico with 10 fixtures each. But FIFA President Gianni Infantino suggested the split of games could change.
“They have made a decision among themselves but ultimately it will be up to FIFA to decide,” Infantino said.
Morocco appeared too hazardous as a potential host when all 14 venues had to be built or renovated as part of a $16 billion investment in new infrastructure. The vote leaves Morocco reeling from a fifth failure in a World Cup hosting vote, with the continent’s sole tournament coming in 2010 in South Africa.
Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani shared the national disappointment but tweeted his thanks to the bid organizers for “this common dream.”
Moroccan sports journalist Omar Chraybi acknowledged that “technically speaking, it’s understandable - the U.S. bid capacity surpasses Morocco’s.” Yet he didn’t lose hope, saying, “The world still looks at Africa as an underdog, but we can’t afford to give up.”
While Morocco’s combined tickets and hospitality revenue projected to be $1.07 billion, according to FIFA analysis, North America would generate $2 billion more.
Canada will host men’s World Cup matches for the first time, while Mexico gets its first taste of the event since 1986.
“To have a message coming from football that says actually Mexico, Canada and the United States together can organize the biggest sporting and social event together,” Infantino said. “It is a nice message.”
The 87,000-capacity MetLife Stadium outside New York — home of the NFL’s Giants and Jets — is proposed for the final. It’s just miles from where federal prosecutors spearheaded an ongoing investigation into FIFA corruption. More than 40 soccer officials and businesses indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty.
The bribery scandal put the governing body on the brink, Infantino told the congress ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
“FIFA was clinically dead as an organization,” Infantino said, reflecting on his election in 2016 before announcing plans to another four-year term in 2019. “Two years later, FIFA is alive and well, full of joy and passion and with a vision for its future.”
The North American victory suggests current FIFA leaders don’t hold grudges against a country whose government has jailed corrupt sports leaders.
“When they help us fight against corruption, of course, we are pleased,” Infantino said.
The North America bid also had to overcome concerns about the impact of policies from the Trump administration, including attempts to implement a ban on travel by residents of six majority-Muslim countries.
FIFA now has the final say on which cities are selected to host games and whether all three countries are guaranteed a place at the tournament. Victor Montagliani, the Canadian who leads CONCACAF, wants them to take three of the seven guaranteed qualification slots reserved for the region as host. Both the United States and Canada failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.
There is also a chance to send an eighth team via an inter-continental playoff. North America will host the six-team playoff tournament in November 2025 to decide the last two places in the 48-team lineup.