A famous quote by Brazilian former international soccer star, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known as Pelé, points to one of the most important qualities a soccer player must have: enthusiasm.
"Enthusiasm is everything," Nascimento said. "It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string."
In the past decade, Louisville stepped in to serve as the guitar string, sending the energy back to local teams.
There are soccer programs and clubs for children as young as two in Louisville. And with so many choices, managers we spoke to say they want kids to play, even if it isn't with their group.
Here's how some of the biggest names in Louisville soccer got their start:
The Coaches: LouCity, Racing Louisville, UofL
Danny Cruz, Head Coach of LouCity
After arriving in the city in 2018, Danny Cruz worked his way up through positions at Lou City until he was appointed head coach in October of 2021.
A former professional soccer player who is used to moving frequently for opportunities, Cruz now calls Louisville home with his wife and their young son.
Falling in love with football was a season, not a specific date for Cruz.
"It wasn't one specific moment or anything like that," he said. "It was more the ability to be around good people and compete...and I was pretty fast so that helped."
James O'Connor, Former LouCity Head Coach
James O'Connor is the president and CEO of Soccer Holdings, he was head coach of the United Soccer League's LouCity team at its inception.
His company owns both LouCity and the National Women's Soccer League's Racing Louisville FC.
"As a young boy growing up in Ireland with three younger brothers, all we did was play soccer," O'Connor explained. "As far back as I can remember, all we did was play soccer. Even when we finished school, bag went down, we went out and played soccer. It's something I've loved doing all my life."
Ali Ahmadi, Founder of Javanon FC
While Ekic represents one of the younger power players in Louisville, the self-proclaimed "Grandfather of Louisville Soccer," Ali Ahmadi, says he fell in love with the sport following a serious accident.
"When I was about nine years old, I got hit in a car accident and I crashed my left leg," Ahmadi said. "I love the game like the kids did, I wanted to play in the streets, but when my leg was broken for about 18 months, we didn't have the means to correct it, I became short feet. My leg became short."
Doctors told him he could never play soccer again, but that didn't stop him from doing what he loved to do.
"It was just a situation that I decided, I guess as a 10-year-old, that I'm gonna do whatever I can to be a soccer player," he said.
Ahmadi grew up in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, and came to America when he was in high school. After spending some time getting soccer established in the Midwest, he moved to Louisville during his college years.
He continued to build soccer programs, from a club at the university, to the indoor professional Louisville Lightning team, to the youth soccer club "Javanon."
Karen Ferguson-Dayes, UofL Women's Soccer Head Coach
Karen Ferguson-Dayes has served as the women's soccer head coach at the University of Louisville since 2000, she's the winningest coach in her program's history.
Ferguson-Dayes has taken a struggling program, and created a powerhouse top-25 producer of professional soccer players.
Her journey to falling in love with the sport begins with Irish step dancing, she says.
"My mom had the three of us daughters in Irish step dance," she said. "I remember soccer being played at one of the feis I was out at, and wanted to do that instead of dance. She put us in soccer and it was love at first sight."
John Michael Hayden, UofL Men's Soccer Head Coach
John Michael Hayden, the young soccer star from Trinity High School, went on to have an illustrious career as a soccer player.
From college to the pros, Hayden now lives back here in Louisville and works as the head coach for the men's soccer team at UofL.
"Many years ago, my dad actually was into it," he described as he talked about his passion. "Played in pick up soccer all the time. I fell in love with the game. There was a lot of diverse population playing the game, from all over the place. I really enjoyed it."
The Players: LouCity, Racing Louisville
Joshua Wynder, LouCity Defender
Another one of the community's young stars, Joshua Wynder, is on the precipice of a massive Major League Soccer contract, the second local player to go pro.
Following his older brother Elijah's footsteps, Wynder joined LouCity when he was just 15 years old, signing his contract in 2021.
"I'd say its a fun sport," he said. "There's a lot more to it than what it looks like...scoring a goal. There's more tactics, things you don't see watching."
Jessica McDonald, Racing Louisville FC Forward
A women's soccer veteran, World Cup Champion, and international superstar, Jessica McDonald specifically sought out a position on the Racing Louisville team because of the allure of our community.
She's a mother, and was ready for a community where she could feel at home with her son.
"My first game ever I scored two goals...on my own team," she said with a chuckle. "I ran the wrong way and scored on the wrong goal and celebrated twice. But you know, you gotta start somewhere."
Emina Ekic, Racing Louisville FC Midfielder
A born and raised Louisvillian, and true product at every level in our city's programs, Emina Ekic fell in love with soccer at a very young age.
"I grew up watching my dad play," Ekic said. "My dad played, my uncle played, and my grandpa. They played at Champions Park, where the facility is."
It's a full circle moment for her as Champions Park is where she practices with her professional team now. Ekic says when she was young she would go every Sunday and watch her family play.
"That's when I fell in love with soccer. I would imitate them play, I'd always be watching them, having a picnic with my mom and grandma while they were sitting on the sidelines watching," she said.