The Incredible True Story Behind Taika Waititi's 'Next Goal Wins'

scene from next goal wins movie
The True Story Behind Next Goal WinsHilary Bronwyn Gayle

New Zealand filmmaker, actor, and comedian Taika Waititi may be best known for his cinematic Marvel Universe creations, including Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) but he’s proving to be ready to take on a new genre with his latest film, Next Goal Wins.

Inspired by the 2014 documentary of the same name, the sports comedy is based on the true story of the “infamously terrible” American Samoa soccer team, infamous for losing a 2001 FIFA match 31-0. While Taika’s take on the story is comedically embellished, it is based on real events. Ahead, learn everything there is to know about Next Goal Wins, which debuted in theaters on Friday, November 17.

Is Next Goal Wins a True Story?

Taika is a comedian at heart and he infuses his love of laughter into Next Goal Wins to enliven the plot. Nevertheless, the sports film is, in fact, based on real-life events.

Following their brutal 2001 loss, the American Samoa soccer team was feeling nothing short of down on their luck. The trend continued for over a decade, at which point, they brought in Thomas Rongen, a renowned Dutch soccer coach who won the MLS Coach of the Year in Major League Soccer’s inaugural season in 1996 after leading the Tampa Bay Mutiny to the best regular-season record. The American Samoa soccer team hoped he could do the same for them, albeit on a much smaller scale. Their sole purpose? For Thomas to lead the team to score even just a single goal.

next goal wins cast
Searchlight Pictures 2023

The team’s plight to score a goal was documented in the 2014 documentary, Next Goal Wins, which won the British Independent Film Award for Best Feature Documentary. Only time will tell if Taika’s comedic take will be met with as much success.

“I saw the documentary a few years ago, and I thought it was a story I had to tell and twist it… Otherwise, you might as well watch the documentary,” Taika said to the audience during the film’s world premiere in September at the Toronto Film Festival.

Who stars in Next Goal Wins?

next goal wins coaches
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle

To make the film current and fresh, Taika cast Michael Fassbender as Thomas Rongen. He is joined by Elisabeth Moss (who plays Gail, Thomas’s ex-wife) and Will Arnett (who plays Alex Magnussen, Gail’s new love interest).

Where can you see Next Goal Wins?

The underdog sports story debuted in theaters on Friday, November 17. Since it’s being distributed by Walt Disney Studios’ Searchlight Pictures, Next Goal Wins is expected to hit Disney+ sometime in 2024.

In the meantime, watch the Next Goal Wins trailer, below.

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