Beckham 1

For the Sunderlands, football is a family affair. On April 23, 2022, Larry Sunderland, Director of Player Development for FC Cincinnati, sat in the stands at NKU Soccer Stadium in Northern Kentucky with his family. As the crowd noise swelled and FC Cincinnati 2 and Inter Miami CF II walked onto the field, two more Sunderlands emerged.

FC Cincinnati homegrown goalkeeper Beckham Sunderland led the squad out to midfield. On the other side, in the middle of a line of pink shirts, was Lawson Sunderland, Beckham’s older brother and midfielder for Miami’s MLS NEXT Pro club.

The two boys had grown up playing together their whole lives—in the Chicago Fire FC academy, in the Portland Timbers Academy and in the backyard. In 2017, Lawson moved to Europe, joining the Levante UD Academy in Spain. In 2019, Beckham and Larry moved to Cincinnati, joining a blossoming new academy in the Queen City as FCC moved to MLS.

Fast-forward to 2022, on a warm April day in Northern Kentucky, they’re playing on the same pitch. Albeit as opponents, the two were set to go head-to-head in a professional soccer match.

“It is really special to have my family in and around the game and for them to understand some of the situations,” Beckham said. “At the same time, I don't think about it too much when I'm out there. But after, it is really cool to look back on those experiences and those moments. Those are things that I'll remember for the rest of my life and really cherish—so it's nice to have that.”

And for Larry, to see two of his sons follow in his footsteps and play professionally, it’s a lot of emotions.

“It’s the greatest thing in the world, right?” said Larry. “On the other side, there's times I sit down and go ‘what is going on? This is the worst thing in the world.’ It's awesome that they're able to chase their dreams, whatever they might be, for any of my kids. These two went to soccer. But, and I remember from my time as a player, there's other times where there’s drama. There's constant drama, good and bad. But it’s great that I get to live it all over again with Lawson and Beck.

“I'm sure at times, both boys want to smack me like, ‘we don't need any more advice, dad!’ But they have to figure out their own journey, and they’re each on their own journey. It's awesome that they're doing it, but then there's other times I sit there—I said to my wife the other day, ‘man, maybe it would have been so much easier if they were both just accountants. And they went to university, and they got their accounting degrees, and they got a job,’ because this this life is it's a tricky life for sure.”

Beckham, 2

Beckham (left) and his brother Lawson (right) swapped jerseys after the match on April 23.

On that April day, Miami came out on top 1-0, with Lawson assisting the game-winning goal past his younger brother. Afterwards, everyone came together in appreciation of the moment.

“It was a really cool experience,” Beckham said with a smile. “To have our family there, I wouldn’t say tears, but there were definitely a lot of really close hugs. My allergies started kicking in, I think. It was a good family moment.”

Now, on Father’s Day, Beckham and Lawson are set to face off again asFC Cincinnati 2 travels to Miami for a Sunday night clash. As for Beckham and Larry? They’re both just grateful Beckham is here to play.

“The most difficult thing has been going through multiple concussions with him,” Larry said. “That's a that's a parental thing, right? That's less about the about the soccer and more about it's a difficult thing. It affects everything in your life. Not just the fact that maybe you can't get on the field and play or you have to wait for an injury to recover, it affects everything. And I think it at different times, it hit him really hard. For his mom and I, it is really difficult to see him go through that. We just tried to support him through those ups and downs.”

Beckham had been sidelined for portions of the last season and this preseason with concussions and lingering symptoms, but as he gets set to play in his eighth match this season, Larry says he notices that his kid who always loved the game is finally coming back. As for Beckham, he can’t help but think about the support that got him here.

“The past year with my concussions, there were a lot of tough conversations that we had to have,” Beckham recalled. “And my dad was always super supportive through everything. No matter what happened. So I can't thank him enough for that. We’re really close. We've got a really good relationship, got a good balance of jokes—lots of jokes. But also, he's always been there for me through any tough times I’ve had. I mean, I love him so much.”