Next Goal Wins

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Next Goal Wins Movie Poster Image
Captivating, moving sports docu; some swearing.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Top-to-bottom positive messages about hard work, the acceptance of differences, belief in oneself, and the importance of faith, teamwork, and hope in the face of adversity. Creates a vivid portrait of the island of American Samoa, its people, its culture, and its spirit. Teamwork, integrity, and perseverance are major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Central character is a Dutch soccer coach: feisty, demanding, kind, generous, capable, a model of inspiration and good teaching. The team of players is, without exception, heroic. Though they're underdogs with little in their favor, they call upon their faith, their culture, their friendship, and their desire for success to reach their goal. They simply don't give up. A gentle, compassionate, and respectful portrait of world soccer's first transgender player is a core element of the film. Ethnically diverse. 


A key character is a transgender female who plays soccer as a male. The team's acceptance of her is easy, comfortable, and without comment. Everyone, including the coach, the support personnel, and the filmmaking team, treats her with respect and admiration. A T-shirt announces "I love boobs."


In multiple scenes, the Dutch coach uses expletives casually and for emphasis: "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "penis."


Well-known brands are visible on clothing and in the background (primarily on sporting goods brand banners): Adidas, Lotto, LG, Arena, Puma, Aon, Billabong, Blue Sky, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People are seen drinking beer at a party. The coach specifically bans smoking and alcoholic beverages. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although Next Goal Wins is a documentary about soccer (known internationally as "football'), it's a movie for everyone who likes great underdog tales. It's a true story filled with inspiring messages, wonderful role models, and exhilarating, but not always predictable, results. Footage from the actual games and practices is just extensive enough to make the necessary points and resolve the story; the heart of the film is an in-depth portrayal of the players, the coach, the American Samoan culture and religious faith, and the courage and tenacity it takes for them to succeed. If it's possible to overlook or explain away the Dutch coach's propensity for swearing ("s--t," "f--k," "ass"), families with teens will enjoy watching this film together. One prominent story element concerns the presence on the team of world soccer's first transgender athlete.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bythrowmeapeanut September 1, 2014

Perfect documentary for family

Great story about sticking to goals, overcoming odds, and showcases a culture that is naturally supportive of one another. The attitude of the team toward the t... Continue reading

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What's the story?

After the most humiliating defeat in World Cup soccer history (Australia: 31, American Samoa: 0) in 2001's qualifying round, it seemed that things couldn't get much worse. But they do. As years pass and the 2014 World Cup preliminary events are about to begin, American Samoa hasn't won a game in decades. They're last in FIFA's World Cup rankings. Their 17-year record is an unbelievable two goals scored vs. 229 goals scored against. NEXT GOAL WINS finds British documentary filmmakers Mike Brett and Steve Jamison on the island to record this lowly team's efforts to redeem themselves. At first it appears to be an insurmountable task. There are no funds, no well-trained players, and no adequate facilities, and the hapless coaches have little hope and even less expertise -- but all that is about to change. Before the FIFA qualifying matches, the U.S. Soccer Federation recruits Dutch coach Thomas Rongen, asking him to travel to American Samoan to perform a one-month miracle. Rongen is fair, skilled, and, without a doubt, a blustering force of nature. Alongside the American Samoans' considerable religious faith, their devotion to one another, and their unrelenting love of the game, Rongen becomes a fairy godfather, wielding his magic wand and taking them to the brink of the redemption they are shown to so greatly deserve.

Is it any good?

This movie's thoroughly enjoyable and and loaded with inspiring messages. Brett and Jamison must consider themselves among the luckiest filmmakers in the world. What they found in American Samoa was moviemaking gold: fascinating characters, including a goalie who'd suffered an unbearable defeat, two photogenic American athletes with ties to American Samoa, soccer's first transgender athlete, and the incredibly charismatic and likable coach sent to save them, which set the story in motion and kept it there. Then, unlikely and suspenseful events took Next Goal Wins to unusual places and to a not-entirely-predictable resolution. The filmmakers’ respectful and tender treatment of the American Samoan people, its culture, and Jaiyah Saelua, a mesmerizing transgender athlete, bring additional depth to an already thoughtful and heartfelt film. Notwithstanding the colorful Coach Rongen’s occasional swearing, it’s great fun.   

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the qualities it took for the American Samoans to turn their team around in Next Goal Wins. How does the team demonstrate integrity, perseverance, and teamwork? Which of those qualities do you think were distinctly related to their country and culture?

  • The filmmakers could not have known the outcome of this story when they started filming. It was a risky venture, but it turned out to be lucky. Why do you think true stories about actual events can be so satisfying? Would you have liked the film even if it turned out differently? 

  • Is it necessary to be a soccer fan to enjoy this movie? What are some general life lessons to take away from it?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

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