Louisville's summer soccer boom through the eyes of someone livi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville's summer soccer boom through the eyes of someone living the dream

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Stout poses with WKU assistant coach Dustin Downey at Anfield in Liverpool. Stout poses with WKU assistant coach Dustin Downey at Anfield in Liverpool.
Stout at top row, center with her teammates at Liverpool Ladies FC. Stout at top row, center with her teammates at Liverpool Ladies FC.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The UK Daily Telegraph said it best when they said "the USA may be leaving, but they have truly arrived." That was the sentiment echoed around the world when USA fans turned up at public watch parties in droves to see their national team take revenge on Ghana, nearly defeat a stacked Portugal team and hold the eventual champions -- Germany -- to one goal.

For almost a month, fans here in Louisville packed bars like Saints and Molly Malone’s, and crowded into Fourth Street Live to share the experience with strangers. They celebrated the USA and rallied around announcements regarding a new pro soccer team coming to Louisville in 2015.

Louisville City FC officials say reservations for the upper deck of Slugger Field have already sold out and the total number of season ticket reservations is now over a thousand. Meanwhile, the University of Louisville soccer program is preparing to kick-off the 2014 season at its new 5,300 seat Lynn Stadium. 

It would seem that soccer has begun to take hold, not only across the country, but especially here in Louisville.

For one Louisvillian, the whole ordeal hits close to home in more ways than one.

From across the pond, Libby Stout has been following the progress of soccer back in Louisville. She’s currently playing professional soccer for the Liverpool Ladies Football Club in England and, as she says, she’s living out her childhood dreams.

Libby grew up in Louisville, playing soccer for St. Albert School, DuPont Manual High School and Mockingbird Valley Soccer Club (now the Chicago Fire Juniors) before going on to play for Western Kentucky University.

After graduating, she decided to pursue those dreams and played in France and Germany before landing at Liverpool. Liverpool Ladies FC is affiliated with Liverpool FC of the English Premier League. Liverpool L.F.C. plays in the Women's Premier League National Division. Stout says everywhere she's gone, she's been welcomed.

"My experience has been a really positive one," Stout said in an email about her time abroad. "I feel as if I have been received quite well in Europe. I believe I've made a good impression during my stints in France and Germany, and I feel as if I have been received well here in Liverpool as well."

Libby believes in being an ambassador for the game, especially for women's soccer, and says setting a good example for younger players will help her find success. "What a great way to see the world, playing the sport I love."

Stout is part of a generation of young Americans who grew up with soccer and who grew up dreaming of playing on the world's stage. Next summer, that stage will come back to North America as the women's World Cup kicks off in Canada.

That's something that's always at the back of Libby's mind. She played on the U.S. Women’s Under-23 National team and is hopeful (now that she's 24) that she could be called to train with the U.S. Women's National Team.

"I certainly work hard every day knowing that I could be called up at any time," Stout said.

Many kids in Louisville got the chance to see the U.S. Women's national team play at Cardinal Stadium and got the chance to see their role models in action up close.

"When I was young I looked up to the US Women’s National team at the time," Stout said. "That group of women inspired me to do what I am doing now. When I was young, watching them on telly was where that professional soccer-playing dream was formed."

She says she was excited to hear about a professional soccer team coming to town. "It would have meant a lot to me to see professional soccer in Louisville when I was young," Stout said of the prospect.

"Witnessing high-level soccer at a young age is important. It can allow young kids and teenagers the opportunity to see the sport played quickly and see what it takes to be an athlete at that level."

While Stout has been working to bring that experience to every young player she meets in England, France and Germany, women's soccer in the U.S. has been struggling to establish itself.

"When I was finishing college, I had plans to try out for a few of the WPS teams." Stout said, "That league then folded, which lead me to playing overseas."

The gap left by the WPS was filled in 2013 by the National Women's Soccer League, sponsored by Nike and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The nine team league began play in the spring of 2013 and had an average attendance of about 4,000.

Libby says playing at home is something she's interested in eventually, but right now she's happy seeing the world. "I have really just been enjoying seeing other countries and experiencing different cultures," she said.

A friend recently told Stout that she had inspired her to follow her own dreams. "That's part of the reason I am doing what I am doing: To help inspire the generation after to me."

"I do my best to remind myself everyday how lucky and blessed I am to be living out my childhood dreams."

She says her coaches have meant a lot to her growth both as a player and as a person. "My first goalkeeper coach, Ted Nichols, has meant a great deal to me," Stout said, "He provided the base that I needed to go off and become successful, and he continues to be one of my biggest supporters. My college coach, Jason Neidell, also has had a huge influence on my growth as a player, and more importantly, as a person."

From Libby Stout’s perspective, soccer has given her more than she can imagine and she hopes that she can help that passion catch on back home. Not just for soccer, but for following your dreams.

With the enthusiasm for soccer seemingly building in the city, there could be room for more emerging young players like Libby Stout. Louisville's new minor league team will look to energize young players and their families to boost attendance.

Next summer will be the ultimate test for the soccer craze generated this summer.

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