DC's Travis Worra always had MLS ambitions - but not always as a player

Travis Worra - DC United

WASHINGTON—When D.C. United goalkeeper Travis Worra was in college, he wanted a career in Major League Soccer. He just wasn’t sure if it would be on the field or at a desk.

So when the statistics major – and economics minor – turned in a project analyzing the league’s financial plan, it almost became part of his elevator speech.

“I was planning on sending it to the league office,” Worra recalled. “There were a bunch of internships in the league office in New York, and I was really interested in doing that … I was thinking, ‘Do I want to push for soccer on the field? Or do I want to push for soccer in the office, in the front office type [of] setting?’”

Worra ultimately pursued playing, and eventually landed a contract as an undrafted rookie with D.C. in 2015.

Fast forward a season, and the 23-year-old New Hampshire alum finds himself starting every weekend while No. 1 Bill Hamid works back from knee surgery and backup Andrew Dykstra remains sidelined from a back procedure.

“I think that I’ve always been very optimistic, but for so long this was just a dream,” said Worra, who is 2-3-4 with nine goals allowed in nine starts. “Even last year, I was like, ‘Ah sweet, I’m on the team, I’m a professional soccer player, I get to come to train every day.’ And now it’s like, ‘I get to come to train today to win on the weekends.’”

United (2-4-4, 10 points) enter Friday’s Atlantic Cup derby against the New York Red Bulls (7 pm ET, UniMás) on an inconsistent run of form. But Worra has proven himself enough to fend off MLS veteran Tally Hall and USMNT U-23 pool goalkeeper Charlie Horton, both signed in the first month of the regular season.

Calling Hamid “the best goalkeeper in the league,” Worra knows he'll lose his starts when the 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year returns to full health.

But the professional game is full of others who turned similar opportunities into long careers. When Worra signed last year, United GM Dave Kasper recalled Troy Perkins, who rose from his third-string role to make 16 starts in 2004, on the way to a career that saw him make 217 MLS appearances to go along with a two-year stint in Norway and seven caps for the US national team.

“[He said] how similar he thought the two of us were. Small school, undrafted, not really known, but just came into preseason and showed well,” Worra said. “He was here for about a year or two and through some opportunities saw the field, and then once he got onto the field just took advantage of it.

“His career is pretty much what I envision for myself.”

Worra doesn’t have a lot of specifics outlined for his life after playing, though he is planning on completing the last three classes for his bachelor’s degree by next spring.

What seems clear is a long-term future in MLS, one way or another.

“I’ve always wanted to do what I can to showcase our country and our country’s talent,” Worra said. “I love this league, and I want to be a part of it in any capacity. So whether that’s coaching or in a front office for an organization or in the league office, I think that’s something I could definitely see myself doing.”