They’re called the Charlotte Eagles, the team logo includes a prominent cross, and they proudly say their number one mission is saving souls.
With 12 minutes left in the game, the Charlotte Eagles are losing 2-0. The North Carolina humidity hangs thick in the evening air. The home crowd becomes restless as the opposing team’s goalie blocks kick after kick.
But the team gets a big break in the 78th minute and scores twice in two minutes against the Rochester Rhinos. This men’s soccer match ends in a tie.
Did God bless the Eagles with those goals?
“I don’t think God cares if we win or lose,” Eagles captain Josh Rife says, shrugging.
Coach Mark Steffens agrees: “Our No. 1 goal is not winning games. Our goal is to bring glory to God.”
It’s an unusual stance for a sports team, but the Eagles aren’t just any soccer squad. Members of the United Soccer Leagues’ 12-team professional division, they’re the only ones who say they care more about Christian values than about winning.
The team was established in 1993 after a “sports junkie fell in love with God,” Eagles co-founder Brian Davidson says. But if he was going to continue being involved in soccer – where he saw players cheating and sneaking fouls past referees – he needed to find a way to live out his faith on the field.
He had two goals for his ministry. First, teach men to live for God on the field by playing fair. The second: Send team members into the community – both locally and “to the ends of the earth” – to teach impoverished children and refugees about soccer and to use the sport to attract people who wouldn’t normally visit church.