SACRAMENTO (KOVR) — The 2023 Homeless World Cup kicked off Saturday in Sacramento.

For the first time, the United States is hosting the international event with the weeklong competition taking place at Sacramento State.

Hundreds of spectators and athletes gathered at Hornet Stadium to watch the first game of the series. The matchup of the day was the USA versus Indonesia, with USA winning 8-2.

“This is a global gathering, 500 athletes, over 40 countries,” said Cassandra Pye with Street Soccer Sacramento.

“I’m excited. I’m confident in my skills,” one USA player said. “But I think there’s going to be some good teams that we’re going to be facing.”

The game is soccer but with some variations. The playing field is only 22 feet long with the goalkeeper and three players per side.

“The matches only last two seven-minute halves, so you can stay here for an hour and watch six or eight different teams,” said Lawrence Cann, the CEO and founder of Street Soccer USA.

Each player in the tournament must have been recently homeless or be seeking asylum.

“Soccer and sports is a way to recuperate their lives,” Cann said.

The goal is to help transform participants’ lives and help change the perceptions of homelessness.

Organizers estimate there are about 100 million homeless people worldwide. Their mission is to help end the crisis.

“This gives an opportunity to have a conversation about how we continue to address the problems and the challenges,” Pye said.

The Homeless World Cup runs every day through July 15 at Sacramento State.

Parking and admission are free. The first game Sunday starts at 9 a.m., and the USA plays at 9:40 a.m.

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