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Millcreek Journal

Alex Horton represents Millcreek in national soccer championship

Aug 03, 2022 08:13PM ● By Daniel Olsen

By Daniel Olsen | [email protected]

Against all odds, Sparta United Soccer Club won the Far West Regionals and earned a spot in the national competition in Florida. On the boys side, clubs from Utah don’t advance to nationals as often. In the last 20 years, only a few have done so.

That is due in part to a rising star from Canyon Rim, a community within Millcreek City. His name is Alex Horton. He started playing in club teams when he was 6 and it became a natural fit.

“Before joining this team, I was on another team that wasn’t on my level of play,” Horton said. “I left that club looking for more. I knew a few people on this team so I gave it a shot. They gave me the opportunity to play with their best team when I was 11. I took it and have played with them ever since.”

Sparta United is based in Sandy. It is run under the U.S Soccer Federation. They run everything from competitive youth soccer to the team that represents the U.S in the World Cup. The best teams in each state then qualify for the tournament within a certain region. Utah is in the Far West Region. It comprises 11 states from Hawaii and Alaska all the way to Colorado. 

This team was good enough to be a top team in Utah and played in the Far West Region tournament last month in Idaho. All states from that region have a team play in that big tournament. Sparta United won that. On the way to winning Far West Regionals, Sparta United beat powerhouse teams from higher-population areas including Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. They go to the national championships to play the teams from the other regions to be the national champion.  

Sparta United is made up of elite-level youth soccer players from across the Wasatch Front. Horton is the only player who lives in the Millcreek area. Utah is a lower population state so it is hard to beat teams from Nevada, California, Washington and Oregon. Utah has higher participation for girls soccer so they win their region more regularly. For boys it is more rare. Only a handful of boys teams from Utah have ever won their region and qualified for nationals. 

Sparta United is a U16 boys team. Some of the players also compete in high school, but the focus is mainly on club soccer. That’s the pathway to collegiate and professional opportunities. Most players on the team have aspirations to compete on those levels. Horton is already being recruited by several universities and professional clubs. Half of these players on this team played for RSL academy, including Horton, but for various reasons it didn’t work out for them there. Those Major League Soccer club academies don’t participate with U.S. Soccer, but the level of play is high.  Horton is doing the equivalent of what AAU is for basketball. He just celebrated his 16th birthday. Nationals is held this year in Orlando at the ESPN Sports Complex.

There are at least 300 universities sending coaches which provides opportunities for players to be scouted. As a star player for the team, Horton has made an effort to find professional players that inspire him. While some kids point to the obvious Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi as their favorite players, Horton is a student of the game that recognizes players that the average soccer observer doesn’t know about.

“I like Robert Lewandowski,” Horton said. “He dominates and is a goal scorer which is inspiring for me. He has a good work ethic. I’ve been dreaming of becoming a pro like him.”

Lewandowski is a Polish player who is a striker for La Liga club Barcelona. While he hasn’t yet traveled overseas to play in Europe yet, Horton has traveled extensively to compete at the highest level for his age in the sport he loves.

“I travel for camps and have played in stadiums in Colorado or as far as North Carolina,” Horton said. “I played against RSL Academy in Monarchs Stadium and that was cool.”

Soccer isn’t an easy sport, but Horton realized from a young age that he had a passion for it.

“When I was a kid I fell in love with it,” Horton said. “I started by just kicking a ball. I played rec soccer and progressed to where I am now. My dad also grew up playing soccer so it runs in the family.”

While they faced long odds, Sparta United overcame those odds which was due in large part to their teamwork.

“I think a big reason for our successful play was our attitude,” Horton said. “It was tough in some games, but we talked and encouraged each other and kept everything positive. We were motivated to play a certain way and got the job done. Success is based on our attitude when we come to the games. We need to be uplifting to each other to do well.”

Aside from his success at an already young age, Horton also hopes that the next generation of players after him will find success.

“If I had to give advice to a little kid, I’d say work to work at your best rate,” Horton said. “There will be days where you want to give up, but don’t give up. You need to keep fighting for what you want until you get it. Don’t give up. Fight for what you love and want.”

Despite the ups and downs, Horton is proud that his team has gotten this far.

“I’m super proud of my teammates,” Horton said. “Despite winning regionals, nothing is over yet. We still got nationals to play for. I can’t wait to see what we have to offer in Orlando.”