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Costa Rica Soccer

Costa Rica Soccer

Soccer, or futbol in Spanish, is the most beloved national pastime. In fact, this sport is so ingrained in Costa Rican life that even the smallest towns have a public soccer field. Throughout the country, a typical Sunday or Wednesday is punctuated by thunderous applause or dejected boos – sure signs that a favorite soccer team has just scored a goal, or let one slip past their goalie in the day's soccer game.

Historians estimate that Costa Ricans began playing soccer around 1876, but it wasn't until 1887 that the country's first team – complete with uniforms and a regulation ball brought from England – began playing in the San Jose county of Tibas. By the early 1900's, San Jose residents had taken to playing organized games, and local sports clubs included soccer among their list of practiced sports – baseball, fencing, bicycling and horseback riding were other popular hobbies of the day.

By 1904, soccer had spread to Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago and other provinces. The Municipality of San Jose was the first to openly support the sport, protecting public soccer fields and donating finances to promote the sport's growth. Several sport clubs attempted to form a national soccer federation, but at least seven attempts to centralize failed.

On June 13, 1921, Costa Rica established the National Soccer League (Liga Nacional de Futbol). The organization was headed by representatives from the country's seven major soccer teams, among them Club Sport Herediano, Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, and Club Sport Cartagines – three teams still in existence today. Costa Rica officially joined the International Football Association (FIFA) in 1927.

Today, six leagues currently form the Costa Rican Soccer Federation: UNAFUT (First Division), LIFUSE (Second Division), ANAFA (Third Division), AFUSCO (Indoor Soccer), ADEFUPLA (Beach Soccer) and ADELIFFE (Women's Soccer). First division soccer is the country's most popular, and hosts Costa Rica's four most important teams: La Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, Club Sport Herediano, Club Sport Cartagines, and Deportivo Saprissa.

Every major soccer team has its own stadium, among them the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Scotiabank in Alajuela, Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero in Heredia, Estadio Fello Meza in Cartago, and Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose. In 2011, Costa Rica inaugurated its National Stadium, located in San Jose's Sabana Park. Costa Rica's national soccer team, known as La Sele, plays at the National Stadium, and other teams can rent it for a fee.

La Sele, the under-20 La Sele Sub-20, and the under-17 La Sele Sub-17 are Costa Rica's soccer representatives abroad, and sources of great pride for fans. These three teams travel internationally to play against other national teams, and represent Costa Rica in competitions like the FIFA World Cup, the Copa America, the Olympics and the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The country's under-20 national team place fourth in the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and Saprissa placed third in the 2005 FIFA World Club Cup. In 2014, Costa Rica will play host to the FIFA Women's U-17 World Cup.