A Small World Cup Goes Big

This annual Central Falls soccer tournament is anything but little

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Rhode Island fans need only wait a little longer to relive the glory of this summer’s Women’s World Cup. On September 14, veteran players from across the smallest state will converge in its smallest city for the fifth annual Central Falls Mundialito Soccer Tournament, a competition that every year does more to match the fever pitch of its namesake (Mundialito, in Spanish, literally means “little World Cup”).

Fans and players who turn up to the Cowden Courts in Central Falls will quickly find themselves enjoying a bite to eat, listening to a local DJ, and cheering on their preferred team in the intense bouts of small-sided soccer on the newly renovated asphalt court. The participation of local elected officials like Central Falls Mayor

James Diossa does much to keep annual expectations high, but this year, excitement for the competition has reached a new level.
“Every year, I have been able to grow it,” said Mundialito founder Tatiana Baena.

Inspired by the success of previous iterations, Tatiana has expanded the one-day format to include a full six-week season of competition that will culminate with its traditional winner-take-all final. Providing teams an opportunity to build chemistry, and rivalries the chance to take root, Tatiana sees the extended season as just the next step in a process that has seen her vision evolve from an idea to a local institution.

The tournament “has always been about a little more than just soccer,” says Tatiana. It is designed to highlight “the diversity of our state and our city.”

An idea originally hatched during Tatiana’s participation in the New Leaders Council fellowship, the tournament already raises enough money to provide two graduates of Central Falls High School, her alma mater, with a $500 college scholarship. But for Tatiana, the past few years have only been just the beginning: Looking forward, she hopes to add more opportunities for young people to get involved by hosting a one-day tournament just for them or even a youth summer league.

The plans may seem ambitious for the self-styled “little World Cup”, but Tatiana has already proven that the Mundialito intends to play in the big leagues.