Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey not only has high ambitions for the MLS side he part-owns, Austin FC, but for soccer in the United States as a whole.
Decked out in an Austin FC t-shirt, McConaughey appeared on NBC Sports' Men in Blazers show on Wednesday night where he explained where his love of soccer originated and why he's convinced that it will soon take over baseball and hockey to become the country's No. 3 sport.
"We're in the five spot now, meaning you’ve got American football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer. I believe quite soon that soccer can move its way up to the No. 3 spot," McConaughey told Roger Bennett.
"North America is hosting the World Cup, 2026, which is the greatest advertisement for this game that there ever can be," he added about the FIFA event that will be co-hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. "We’re opening up more academies — when the academies are understood to be a real way that the young American athlete can go forward and say 'you know what, there’s a game that I can play until I'm 40, there’s a game I can play that I'm gonna still be healthy when I'm 70, there’s a game I can play where I can fill my passport.'"
McConaughey's love of the beautiful game dates back to long before his involvement with Austin FC, which will begin play in MLS in 2021. As he explained on Men in Blazers, he was a goalkeeper in his youth, albeit one more known for his ill-discipline than his saves.
"I led the under-12 league in red cards for two years in a row as a goalie," he said. "I was the one that could spatially time it right that if you were the striker coming I could run out at full speed and meet you just as you got six inches into the box and take that ball out and probably take your legs out as well. I got many red cards but I was a damn good goalie."
That interest was reignited by his Brazilian wife, Camila, as well as his global travels.
"My job takes me all over the world," he explained. "We go to South Africa, we go to Australia, we go to England, we go to New York, we go to Cleveland, we go to Asia. What’s the greatest invitation in the world? The soccer ball.
"Around the world, you can be in a square in Rome and you can be sitting there and someone has a soccer ball and you can walk up, you don’t introduce yourself, they kick the ball to you and suddenly you’re in the game," he continued.
"The soccer ball is a great equalizer, it’s a peacemaker."
Austin FC have already made large strides toward being ready to compete when they enter MLS next year. On the field, they have hired former U.S. men's national team assistant Josh Wolff as head coach as well as USMNT legend Claudio Reyna as sporting director. And off the field, the club has received tremendous support from the local community, recently revealing that over 40,000 season ticket deposits have been sold.