Partner Spotlight – North Carolina FC Youth

NCFC Youth, the largest club in North Carolina, has supported soccer and the soccer community of Raleigh and the Golden Triangle since 1974. WorldStrides Sports and NCFC Youth recently extended our partnership to deliver international travel programs to their players for another three years. 

We caught up with Paul Forster, Director of Soccer, to ask about how things are going and how WorldStrides Sports programs have made a difference at the club.

Can you let us know how you and your staff at North Carolina Football Club have adapted to the pandemic?
Like every staff in the country, we were not prepared to deal with COVID and all the challenges it provided.  With that said, I am very happy with where we are now, as a club, and it is a credit to the staff we have here at NCFC Youth. We have worked tirelessly to get back out onto the pitch to be able to train and play. It is clear our families want their children to have soccer as part of their daily routine, and we are happy to be able to provide soccer opportunities for players. There are still daily challenges we face and need to manage as we move forward.

Over the last few years, almost 20 NCFC teams have travelled internationally with WorldStrides. What does the international program offer NCFC and what benefits has it provided to the NCFC community?
There is nothing better than talking a team overseas and immersing the group (players and families) into a different culture. Our soccer families lead very busy lives, so it is great to get away and enjoy another culture while at the same time taking in some high level soccer matches. There is so much to appreciate when traveling overseas.

Your wife and daughter travelled to the Women’s World Cup in France last year, what were some of their main takeaways from that trip and do you think they will be first in line to go to Australia and New Zealand in 2023?
Funny enough, they are already talking about it. Unfortunately I haven’t been invited yet, but I have a few years to work on that! The trip to Women’s World Cup in France was an unbelievable experience for them both. To be able to combine an international trip with one of the biggest sporting events in the world is truly a great opportunity. International trips present a great opportunity to play international competition, experience a different culture, and most importantly get to see live soccer games. The whole trip was a great experience and one both my daughter and wife still talk about.

We are very much looking forward to the world getting back to normal so that we can get back to doing the things we love doing more freely. What things, both professionally for NCFC and personally are you looking forward to?
It is just great to be back on the pitch both training and playing. As a staff we work daily on trying to improve the environment for the players and families in every way can. While COVID19 has presented us with many challenges our families have worked with us to get players back on the pitch and been incredibly supportive along the way. On a personal level I look forward to the day we can watch live football matches either here with our North Carolina Football Club in the USL or the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL or perhaps traveling overseas to watch a game or two.

We’re excited to announce that North Carolina Football Club signed to renew their partnership with WorldStrides Sports to be their exclusive international travel provider. Can you talk to some of the reasons why you chose to partner with WorldStrides?
First and foremost it comes down to the people we deal with directly. Steven and Eric are always willing to get on the phone and talk with any member of our staff at any time. Our partnership is built around good relationships and we value the relationship we have the WS staff.

The professionalism of whole WorldStrides Sports staff eases our level of comfort when planning and organizing international trips. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure trips run smoothly. Our staff and families appreciate the work that the WS staff to ensure the travel experiences are positive.

The trips our families have participated in have been very, very well planned and, as staff, we know our families are safe and in good hands when they leave home. In addition to feeling safe, you guys do an incredible job of balancing the sightseeing/cultural experiences with training, playing, and watching matches. The trips are action packed and filled with great experiences for both the players and parents.

Want to get a real feel for what a NCFC Youth trip abroad is actually like? Check out the video they put together about their trip to Barcelona last year!

Program Spotlight – Costa Rica

“Love of the game is the same in any language.”

South Texas ODP has traveled with WorldStrides Sports since 2017, and Costa Rica was their first ever destination for both the boys and girls team. In 2018, the boys team traveled to Scotland and the girls went to London. In 2019, both the boys and the girls teams played in Barcelona. They also had a group travel to the Women’s World Cup in France in 2019. Once international travel resumes, South Texas ODP has six programs lined up – three girls teams to London/Manchester, and three boys teams to Dortmund!

Checking in with Denise Churchill, South Texas ODP

First, we hope you and your family are safe and healthy. How are things going with STX ODP?
All is well in my little piece of Texas – living, as it were, in the silver lining of all this chaos. I get to work from home – my favorite place on the planet, I am enjoying life at a much slower pace – many not-so-important things have fallen away, I’ve stayed healthy and, I get to spend more time with my favorite person – my husband!

In 2019, ODP moved from being my responsibility to Gareth Glick and the program is thriving under his leadership.

In 2017 you traveled with us to Costa Rica. How did you guys decide on this as your destination?
Proximity to Texas – Costa Rica was a short plane ride away, less than 4 hours. This was important for a couple of reasons. One, since it was our first experience, we wanted things simple – duration of flight, no layovers, no flight changes, and no looming international airports. Two, several of the players were especially young, so we considered a shorted flight-time a plus.

How was the competition there? 
Well matched. Our players did well, played competitively but, were outscored. The girls lost all three of their matches. The boys may have tied or won one of theirs. It served us well, I think, that the teams were progressively tougher, as this kept our players aware they needed to be at their best.


What are some of the main difference in the culture and how did the players in your program adapt? 
This first game provided the most significantly different cultural experience. We’d driven a couple of hours up into the mountains to play against a team who had also driven in for the game. The small community field had been wedged into available space. It was shorter and wider than a standard pitch. This, however, in no way diminished the joy of the game. Having little in common—except the game—had zero effect on the play and less effect on the interaction afterward. Watching these players you would not know they didn’t speak the same language. We posed them for a group picture and then watched them take selfie after selfie with the local players.

What were some of the lessons they learned from traveling to Costa Rica?
Love of the game is the same in any language.

Where are you planning to go on your next international play experience?
I was extremely blessed to be allowed to accompany our ODP teams to London in 2018 and to Paris in 2019. Wow! Amazing adventures. If given the opportunity in the future, I will go again.

Gareth is now leading our ODP program and he is working with WorldStrides Sports on a trip to Germany in 2021.

Interested in adding international travel and play to your soccer program? So are we. Visit us at  or contact us at to learn more.

Partner Spotlight – Seacoast United

Just over a year ago, we had a big announcement: Seacoast United selected us as their exclusive international travel program provider for their soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, and field hockey programs. (You can read an official press release here.)

That’s big, exciting news all around, for sure, but also perhaps a bit of destiny was at play – you see, our very own Nikiah Dulac, played soccer with Seacoast United as a youth soccer player.

There she is – top row, third from the right!

“How big our world is and yet how small it can be — As a young girl, I ate, drank, slept, and dreamt about soccer. Seacoast fulfilled my dreams as a player. Now, fast forward 20+ years later, and how wonderful it is to give additional meaning to my job at WorldStrides Sports to serve as the primary liaison behind the development of all SUSC’s international trips. Paul Willis [President and CEO, Seacoast United] was an influential part in my youth and still is to this day.”
Nikiah Dulac, Account Executive, WorldStrides Sports

In the years since Nikiah’s playing days, Seacoast United has continued to grow and is now one of the largest and most admired sporting clubs in New England, offering top-class training, competition, and facilities to athletes in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine. Adding international programs to their already impressive menu of opportunities for their players is not only an obvious step in the club’s overall progression, it takes its dedicated interest in building community to the next level – abroad.

“Partnering with Seacoast United is fantastic for all involved, starting with the athletes that will participate in what they’ll truly remember as a highlight of their youth career. They’ll see a bigger glimpse of just how big – and unifying –soccer is around the world, and begin to really see the nuances in style and approach that international cities and countries give the game. I’ll never stop getting excited about what that means to me, WorldStrides Sports, and our players from across the country.”
Eric McAleer, SVP, WorldStrides Sports

While Covid has thrown a wrench in Seacoast United’s plans to conduct five international travel programs in 2020, club representatives were able to join us for a familiarization trip in February, just before the world turned upside down. In fact, they shared their side of the story here.

“The one thing I took away more so than anything else is how amazing the team at WorldStrides is. Everything leading up to the trip, boots on the ground, the tour conductor were fantastic ambassadors for your company…you must be extremely proud of the people involved in your organization. Please pass on my best to them and let them know again how much I appreciate their efforts as I know how much work goes into putting these types of things together.”
James Peterson, Sales and Marketing Director, Seacoast United

Thank you, James! We can’t wait to see your athletes playing the sport they love in new places around the world.

Interested in joining Seacoast United as a WorldStrides Sports partner? Contact us today at or visit us to learn more at