Millcreek’s Alex Horton helps lead Sparta United to National ChampionshipSep 08, 2023 12:19PM ● By Daniel Olsen
Alex Horton with Sparta United after winning the National Championship. (Photo Natalie Horton)
When the Sparta United soccer club won the Far West Regional last year, that was a monumental leap for a team in the often overlooked state of Utah. They came back and won the national championship for the boys U 16-17 division for the USY (United States Youth Soccer).
“Many people helped us build off last year’s success,” said soccer club player Alex Horton. “Teammates push me on and off the field to my limits. Another person is my dad. He’s pushed me like nobody has ever pushed me before. It’s helped me be where I am today. The days where I don’t like being pushed hard are where I have learned the most. Those are the days I learned and improved the most.”
There are many aspects of the game that Horton focuses on to be able to compete at this level.
“Most of my work is done in my weekly training,” Horton said. “We focus on speed and technical drills. I want to build in every aspect of the game to make ourselves better overall. Apart from that, I go to the gym and work on my build. It’s hard, but in the end I look back and say I did a good job because it paid off.”
Before they got to nationals, the regionals were a touch obstacle for Sparta United to get to the same place they were last year.
“They won regionals and came back knowing we could do it again,” Horton said. “Having that in our minds really pushed us a lot. It’s the same thing that happened last year. The key that helped us was having a positive attitude towards referees and coaches. There were some really good teams, and we had to push and not get down on ourselves.”
The national championship was played in Florida again. The championship is at the ESPN World Wide Sports Complex. Every sport by ESPN is hosted on that Disney World campus.
“We went to the Disney water park before to calm my mind,” Horton said. “I wanted to have fun with my family before it all started. That was a good part before the tournament.”
Being a Millcreek native means that this was not only a win for the state of Utah, but also his hometown.
“This goes toward getting recruited collegiately,” Horton said. “If you go to nationals, there are college coaches coming after you. The state of Utah is highly underrated. People assume there aren’t good players there. You shouldn’t look past us. Whether you are a college or regular coach or just a fan, you can’t assume we are crummy at soccer just because we are from Utah. Not a lot of kids have made it as far as I have. It’s awesome to be in this lovely area and have the attention that has resulted from this.”
Other college scouts are taking notice and have reached out to Horton and his teammates about opportunities to play in college.
“There’s less for men than women in Utah but that’s OK,” Horton said. “I have some opportunities in the state of Utah. Most of the opportunities are coming out of state and some are out of Colorado. Wherever life takes me, I know it’s for a reason. I am 100% planning on playing collegiate soccer. My teammates committed verbally but the earliest day you can sign is in December. One of my friends who graduated last year just committed a month or so ago.”
Until college commitment time comes, Horton is concentrating on the here and now.
“We have already had one practice since we won nationals,” Horton said. “We decided we want to set the tone. We are losing a lot of good players, but we are filling in the roles and setting the expectation that we will do this in 2024.”
Along with the regionals and attention from colleges came perhaps the most amazing feat in youth soccer in Utah history, a national title.
“Ever since that last game we won I got a lot of congratulations and questions,” Horton said. “I am often asked how it feels. I am lost for words. We set the expectation. We could have been better in last year’s performance at nationals. The first year we didn’t know what to expect, but now we know so we have to go out and get it. In the summer it is over 90 degrees with humidity at nationals. In those moments, you have to fight and push through it. Another team kicked us out last year and we beat them at nationals this year.”
It wasn’t easy, but Sparta United was able to get the job done.
“If you get knocked down the first time, then it’s important to get back up and knock them down,” Horton said. “It feels great to be on top of America. We have to come back and get it next year.” λ