Nick Mayhugh Optimistic About U.S. 7-A-Side Soccer’s Future As Team Earns First Parapan Medal

By Melissa Zhang | Aug. 31, 2019, 2:30 p.m. (ET)

Nick Mayhugh of the U.S. Paralympic Soccer Team in competition
Nick Mayhugh celebrates after winning bronze at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 31, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

In the history of the Parapan American Games, the United States has never earned a medal in soccer 7-a-side. 

That all changed today, when the U.S. team earned a 7-0 victory over Venezuela to claim bronze at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019. 

Midfielders Nick Mayhugh (Manassas, Virginia) and Cameron DeLillo (Blandon, Pennsylvania) notched two points each, and have been the leading scorers for Team USA throughout the tournament. 

For Mayhugh, bringing home a medal from his first trip to the Parapan American Games means everything. 

“This means the world to us. We came in with our sights set on gold, but to make it on the podium is a huge accomplishment so we’re really proud,” the 23-year-old said. “Hats off to the staff and the veteran guys who really just set the tone. The future is really bright and this just means everything to us.”

Mayhugh logged a total of eight goals at the Villa Maria del Triunfo stadium in Lima, and was the first to score in the bronze-medal match on Saturday, finding the back of the net less than a minute into the game. 

“Our coach (Stuart Sharp) had set high goals coming into 2019,” Mayhugh said. “He really set the foundation for us and we knew that we had to come into the Parapans with confidence and try to make things happen. I tried to take it upon myself to be one of the leaders on the team; after we had a strong world cup finish this past year, we came to Peru and knew that we had to finish strong.” 

The American roster boasts a wide range of experience, with more veteran players like Rio Paralympian Josh Brunais and two-time Paralympian Adam Ballou sharing the pitch with newer faces like DeLillo and Mayhugh. 

“I remember coming to my first national team camp in 2017, and the captains made the transition from the 11-a-side game to the 7-a-side game as easy as possible for me,” Mayhugh said. “I know that every new guy that comes in, the older players take under their wing. You couldn’t ask for better teammates or better people – the veterans are world-class.” 

For the United States, leaving Lima with a podium finish is a promising sign for what’s to come. 

It’s a major improvement from the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, when the Americans earned a fifth-place finish out of five teams – and Mayhugh is hopeful that the team can do even better in the future. 

“Anything is possible. We set our goals really high to be the number one team in the world,” Mayhugh said. “We’re eventually going to get there. There’s definitely some steps that we need to take, but the future of this team is really bright. I’ll say that for sure.”