Lara Larco (C'15) falls to the field and reaches out her arms to catch a soccer ball at a women's soccer game vs. Rutgers.
Category: Student Experience

Title: Junior To Play for Haiti’s First Ever Women’s World Cup

As the final whistle blew, Lara Larco (C’25) and her teammates jumped over the side of the boards in a stadium in Auckland, New Zealand, and ran out onto the pitch. 

Larco, in a neon yellow goalkeeper’s jersey, wrapped her arms around fellow players, their heads bent together crying, laughing and shouting. Some fell to their knees. Others danced and waved the Haitian flag behind them. 

The Haitian women’s soccer team had just beat Chile and qualified for the Women’s World Cup for the first time in the country’s history. 

“It was unbelievable,” said Larco, who plays for Haiti and for Georgetown’s women’s soccer team. “It means a lot to a country that has gone through so much. Everyone on my team has been playing their whole lives for this moment.”

Larco, who is Haitian American, joined Haiti’s women’s soccer team a year and a half ago. She’s been competing against another teammate to start as goalkeeper at the World Cup match. 

And five months to the day after the Chile match, she’ll have her chance as Haiti plays England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 22. 

She’ll be joined by three other Hoyas playing in the tournament: Maya Alcantara (G’23) for the Philippines, Kyra Carusa (G’19) for Ireland and Daisy Cleverly (G’21) for co-hosts New Zealand.

“Haiti is my home, and bringing joy to the Haitian people through soccer amid the prevailing darkness in the country is a dream come true.”

Lara Larco (C’25), in an interview with Georgetown Athletics

For Larco and her Haiti teammates, making it to the World Cup is more than just soccer. It’s shining a light on a country where gang violence has sharpened and spread, displacing Haitians from their homes and restricting access to food, water and health care services, and where 4.9 million are facing food insecurity, according to a UN report. Haiti’s women’s soccer team had to close their own training center due to the violence; Larco has never trained in the country. 

“The media that shines light on Haiti is super negative, and people who hear about Haiti hear it’s a poor, messed-up country,” Larco said. “But being from there, seeing the beauty of it, seeing how close everyone is in the country, it’s a feeling you can’t really describe. So being able to bring something positive [about it] to other people’s eyes … it means a lot to me.”

Goalkeeping at Georgetown

Lara Larco (C'15) pictured at a young age posing for a picture in a red jersey on the soccer field.
Larco began playing soccer when she was 3 years old and years later found her calling on the field as a goalkeeper.

Larco left Haiti for the U.S. when she was three. Her dad, who also played professional soccer, still lives there. Larco first started kicking a soccer ball when she was three, and fell in love with goalkeeping at 11. She liked having a bird’s eye view of the field and commanding her team from the goalposts. 

In looking for colleges, she was drawn to a school with a top soccer program and strong academics. Her mom had dreamt of going to Georgetown herself, and Larco wanted to live this dream out. She was persistent in sending the Georgetown women’s soccer coach highlight videos. 

In 2021, Larco began pursuing a major in psychology and minor in economics in the College of Arts & Sciences at Georgetown and playing for the university’s Blue & Gray, who are three-year reigning champs of the Big East women’s soccer championship. 

Around the same time, the head of Haiti’s soccer federation reached out to Larco’s father to see if she would be interested in playing in the two games leading up to the World Cup qualifiers. Larco had previously been invited to play for Haiti in high school — her father had sent her highlights reel to a family friend there — and she declined, wanting to focus on finishing high school. This time, though, she was ready.  

“Georgetown has played a significant role in fostering discipline in balancing academics and soccer, which has translated to the national team and has certainly earned me rewards due to my discipline,” Larco said in a 2023 Georgetown Athletics article.

Training for the World Cup

In training for the World Cup, Larco often puts on her Hoyas training top and cleats, eats an omelet, bread, yogurt and fruit, practices once or twice a day and conditions on a bike. 

She has been splitting her time training in Boca Raton, Florida, and Crans-Montana, Switzerland, a ski resort town in the Swiss Alps where the team played their first non-competitive match against Malta. After practice one day, she and her team hiked five miles up the side of a mountain to mentally prepare for long days.

She then left for South Korea for more scrimmages before arriving in Australia in July for the World Cup game.

Lara Larco (C'15) catches a soccer ball in front of a goalpost on a soccer field.
Lara Larco (C’25) is competing with a teammate to start as goalkeeper in the Women’s World Cup games.

Larco tries to keep her mind off the pressure of the game, the pressure of how she’s doing and whether she’ll start as goalkeeper. She talks to her family often on the phone and prays before games, listening to worship music. 

“I try not to think or care about the opinions of the coaches. Once I start thinking about it, I make more mistakes,” she said. “Everyone’s dream is to go to the World Cup. At the end of the day, I just want to enjoy it.”

Larco said she’s inspired by her teammates, many of whom grew up in Haiti and faced their own obstacles growing up. Before every game, her captain reminds the team that they’re doing this for Haiti, for their family back home “who are suffering, to help get them out of the country as well.”

“For many of these girls, it wasn’t just playing college soccer or club soccer or their parents made them do it. They were doing it every single day to get out of misery and poverty,” she said. “These girls finding a way to get out is so inspirational to me.”

For Larco, playing soccer is her own way of giving back to her home country.

“Everyone is always talking about helping Haiti and having a positive impact on Haiti. For me, through soccer, at least for now, that’s my way of doing it.”

Haiti will play England on July 22 at 5:30 a.m. ET.