GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - As the 2014 World Cup begins in Brazil, the next generation of soccer stars are sharpening their skills in Gulfport. The 14th annual International Soccer Clinic is underway at the sportsplex. And with the start of the World Cup, these young players have a little extra incentive.
"We're going to work on getting the foot planted, kicking and following through on the ball," said Coach Jeff, as the excited six-year-olds tried their best to pay attention.
They are anxious to learn and more than a little competitive.
"Let's beat 'em again," yelled one young coach, as his squad celebrated a victory.
Though these soccer fields are half a world away from Brazil, these youngsters find added motivation from the Super Bowl of soccer.
"With the World Cup starting today, the coaches are excited, the kids are excited. And we're looking forward to a good World Cup," said Warren Arde, with the International Soccer Clinic USA.
"There's a real passion for it. And that's why they're out here. It's one of their favorite sports to play," he said.
Scoring seems to be the favorite part for many of these young players. And Team USA could certainly use some future offensive stars.
"I like to score in the top right corner," said one 10-year-old.
"Sometimes I'll kick it to the goalie, sometimes I'll take it to the top right corner," added another youngster.
Learning the finer points of "headers" was high on Thursday's lesson plan. The cerebral strategy of using your head as an offensive or defensive weapon.
"I just love everything about it," said one 10-year-old girl.
"And there seems to be a real excitement and buzz in the air with the World Cup coming out today. And the kids have a lot of energy," Arde said.
And even though we heard several kids yell out, 'we call Brazil', when they broke into scrimmage teams, the allegiance is still red, white and blue.
"USA, USA, USA," chanted the team members.