DENVER (KDVR) – Futbol lovers across Colorado turned their gazes to New York City Thursday afternoon, where officials from FIFA announced the finalized list of host cities for the upcoming World Cup in 2026.
Back in October of 2021, the City of Denver put in a bid to be considered for host status during the 2026 competition, which if granted, would have likely landed several matches over at Empower Field. Ultimately, however, the Mile High City was not among those selected.
Despite that, FOX31 wanted to look at the longstanding history soccer has with Colorado, since its initial arrival back in 1939. The following timeline of events was partially created using archives recorded by the state’s governing soccer body, the Colorado Soccer Association.
Soccer touches down in Colorado
There have been many primordial versions of soccer that have popped up in various civilizations over the last 2,000 years, but according to Britannica, the sport known today as soccer, futbol, or football was birthed into existence in the 19th Century in Britain.
It wasn’t until 1939 that the sport made it to Colorado. When it did, the Rocky Mountain Soccer Football Association was formed and offered those inching into the newly migrated sport an outlet to learn more about it while getting to play it in a well-organized fashion.
The name of the organization was changed to Colorado State Soccer Association around 13 years later, in 1952. The change was in name only as the focus of the group continued to be growing the skills of adults rather than the state’s kids.
The transition toward a youth-focused organization occurred nine years later in 1961 when Joe “G.K.“ Guennel founded the Colorado Junior Soccer Association, which focused on organizing leagues, teams and players within the state.
Pushing for professionalism in Colorado
Today, the Denver Dynamo is a name that now belongs to a youth mountain bike program, but jump back to January of 1974 when it belonged to a professional soccer team that played in Mile High Stadium and competed in the first version of the North American Soccer League.
The Denver Dynamos were added to the league along with seven other expansion teams that year, but after seasons with more losses than wins in 1974 (5 wins, 15 losses) and 1975 (9 wins, 13 losses), the team was packed up, renamed and shipped out to its new home in Minnesota.
It wasn’t long until the NASL delivered another team to Denver, for in 1978 the Caribous of Colorado were formed.
Their record was unfortunately even less to talk about than that of the Dynamo, but one redeeming quality that forever changed Colorado lore was the club’s decision to create and play in frill-decorated home jerseys.
Following their loss-riddled first season, the owners took the franchise to Atlanta.
Colorado’s first taste of soccer success
In 1977, 1983, 1994 and 1995, an amateur team from Colorado named the Denver Kickers, won the U.S. Amateur Cup, which is the highest national honor an amateur team can claim.
During that same timeframe, the state got its first professional indoor team in the Denver Avalanche, which played two seasons in the McNichols Sports Arena.
Arguably the most successful soccer team to ever grace the region was formed in 1990 and was named the Colorado Foxes. Competing in the American Professional Soccer League, the Foxes went on to claim the league title in both 1992 and 1993 before leaving the state after the 1997 season.
Soccer in the metroplex in the modern era
Major League Soccer was formed in 1996 with 10 franchises making up the league. The Colorado Rapids were among that inaugural group of teams and have maintained their membership to date.
They came close to victory in 1997 when the team nearly got its hands around the MLS Cup, but they fell short.
Fast forward to the 2007 season, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park received a grand opening in Commerce City, becoming the club’s new home and the first-ever stadium in the country to have been built specifically for soccer.
It took just three more years for the Rapids to bring home a national championship following a 2-1 win over FC Dallas in the MLS Cup final.
The Colorado Rapids Women team was formed in the same year as their male counterparts. In 2012, while competing in the North American USL Super20 League championship, they edged out D.C. United to claim the league title.
It took them just seven more years to graze greatness when they were named runners-up for the 2019 Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite.
Club soccer on the youth level has also carried a lot of weight when it comes to the nation’s soccer talent pool. Colorado Rush Nike was the first to ever win a National Championship two years in a row between 1989 and 1990. Their latest national title-claiming season was in 2009.
The most recent success recorded on a national level by a Centennial State team was achieved by the girls under 15 Colorado Storm North 02′ Royal. During the 2017 season, they grabbed the National Presidents Cup Championship, which was the last time a youth soccer team from the state claimed a national honor.
Facing the unfortunate World Cup 2026 truth
Denver was not named among the final cities to claim a host city slot, but that does not mean soccer won’t be in the city in the coming years.
Just last year, Denver hosted the Gold Cup final between the U.S. and Mexico, which was a rowdy affair that ended with a late overtime goal for the U.S. The goal celebration was interrupted by the pelting of beer and other projectiles upon the American players.
Despite FIFA’s decision not to host World Cup matches here, there are still a large number of ways to take in the world’s favorite sport here in Colorado, whether you want to watch or play.
You can look up adult soccer leagues in your local area, like the one run by Volo at Dicks Sporting Goods Park, or get your children involved in the youth leagues set up across the state by the Colorado Soccer Association.
The more of a foothold the sport has in Colorado, the more likely the state’s chances are of hosting the World Cup the next time the bidding train rolls around.