When Simeon Carson, Oak Park resident and USA soccer aficionado, took a call from his son Dylan, an OPRF graduate and junior at Purdue University, he had no idea that weeks later the duo would be in the Middle East watching the United States take on England in the group stage of the World Cup.
“Dylan called to say he had a connection to housing in Qatar during the World Cup through a classmate at Purdue — I thought he was planning to go with friends,” said Carson. “It took me a moment to realize he wanted me to go with him. It makes me a little emotional to think about how much that moment meant to me.”
With housing secured on Pearl Island in Doha, Qatar, an artificial island boasting lavish residences and a Riviera-stye marina, Carson focused on building his World Cup experience around the United States National team he and his son have been following for years. The duo set their sights on getting tickets to the USA versus England match on Nov. 25 at Al Bayt Stadium. It was not an easy task.
Despite following advice in the community affiliated with The Scuffed podcast, Carson was rejected from every attempt he made to secure tickets. He was near giving up hope, but while out for $5 burgers at FitzGerald’s on a Wednesday evening he had a breakthrough. He slipped away from the table to make the purchase and succeeded. With tickets secured to witness Team USA on the world stage, Carson added tickets to see Brazil versus Serbia on Nov. 24 at Lusail Stadium and Iran versus Wales on Nov. 25 at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. The father and son had set the stage for 36 hours of jam-packed World Cup fun in Qatar. The trip was bookended by a 13-hour flight there and a 15-hour flight home, but jet lag could not dampen their fun.
“I was worried we would be zombies, but this trip was a dream come true and we really didn’t feel tired,” said Carson. “Everyone in Qatar was so gracious and the crowd was so diverse. We met fans from all over the world.”
Only the most passionate soccer fans travel to support their teams in intense international tournaments like the World Cup. Carson referred to the energy as “indescribable,” praised the organization of the tournament overall, and particularly enjoyed the Iranian fan base. Stadiums were so close together that they were just a train ride away.
“Hearing the national anthem at the USA-England game was a highlight,” said Carson who credits his love of U.S. soccer for preserving his patriotism during the past several years. “To be that unbridled in embracing your love of America was an unforgettable moment.”
Seeing the English fans leaving the match early was another highlight according to Carson who appreciated how USA midfielder, Christian Pulisic, pumped up the American fans despite being rostered to Chelsea in the English Premier League. Carson is clear that the progression in U.S. soccer is undeniable and is excited about the future of the sport with “wholly U.S. trained” players making their way into the top five international leagues.
“This U.S. team is young, either the youngest or second youngest in the World Cup this year,” said Carson. “I really think the program has a promising future.”
In addition to taking in the two additional matches, Carson and his son visited an open-air spice market, enjoyed a grand Turkish feast and visited the National Museum of Qatar designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. Both Carson and his son enjoyed learning more about the agrarian history and modern evolution of Qatar in the 430,500 square foot museum. The duo appreciated the architecture of the museum and the city of Doha overall.
Carson, a player himself, raised his son around soccer. He served as his AYSO coach in Oak Park and swapped to team manager when Dylan started playing for one of Oak Park’s Chicago Edge club teams. The 2010 World Cup captured his imagination as Dylan watched the games with his father. The two follow the Chicago Fire, root for the success of the men’s and women’s U.S. National teams and attended the World Cup qualifying match in Nashville earlier this year. Soccer has bonded the two together for years and this trip was a culmination of their shared passion.
The trip was expensive, but Carson’s wife, Molly McDonough Carson, prioritized the trip for her son and husband. Her mother died near Thanksgiving in 2021 and the loss serves as a constant reminder to make as many memories as you can with those you love. The family agreed to dip into the inheritance she received following her mother’s death to make this World Cup dream a reality.