Empire Trio Helps U.S. to Knockout Stage of WMF World Cup

by Gunnar Berndt

Sesay, Tayou play key roles in gritty draw with Romania

Ras Al Khaima, United Arab Emirates — A trio of Empire Strykers standouts has helped the U.S. Minifootball team to the round of 16 of the World Minifootball Federation (WMF) World Cup. Faced with a crucial third and final clash in Group D, Head Coach Phil Salvagio’s men battled eventual first-place finishers Romania to a scoreless draw on Monday evening local time. While the Strykers’ Justin Stinson was suspended for the game after receiving a red card in the 8-1 win over Sudan two days prior, his club teammates Israel Sesay and Franck Tayou played pivotal roles against Romania.

While forward Tayou worked tirelessly up front, Empire captain Sesay was key to his side’s impressive defensive effort against an opponent that claimed third place overall in the tournament’s 2019 edition.

Tayou bagged a brace in Saturday’s lopsided meeting with Sudan, which followed a hard-fought 2-2 draw with a Spain squad that would finish third in the group ahead of Sudan. With Romania and the U.S. advancing, both Spain and Sudan miss out on the knockout stages. At five points, the Stars and Stripes beat out Spain (four points) for second place. Romania tops the group with seven points.

Facing off with the Czech Republic on Wednesday, November 1, the Americans will be eager to advance to the quarterfinals, as losses in the rounds of 16 of the two previous WMF World Cups loom large. The competition, which is held irregularly, debuted in 2015, with the U.S. lifting the trophy as host. The Czech Republic and Mexico emerged victorious in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

The Empire Strykers kick off their upcoming Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign with a pair of road games south of the border, as they face the Chihuahua Savage on November 24 and the Monterrey Flash on November 26. The team’s 2023-24 home opener at Toyota Arena in Ontario is set for December 15 against the Baltimore Blast.