- Teqball is a fast-growing hybrid of soccer and ping pong that’s vying for a spot in the 2028 Olympics.
- US Women’s National Team legend Carli Lloyd is the sport’s first female ambassador in America.
- She sat down with Insider to discuss discovering the sport and helping it grow into a household name.
From the moment she said goodbye to professional soccer, Carli Lloyd knew she’d need “another outlet for my competitiveness” away from the pitch.
The two-time World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist mused, “Perhaps that will be golf?” in the US Women’s National Team release announcing her retirement back in August 2021. She even teased a potential transition from the soccer field to the gridiron to kick for an NFL team.
But now, more than a year later, Lloyd has honed in on her next great athletic venture — in a sport you may have never heard of.
The 40-year-old is the first female ambassador for Teqball, a cross between soccer and ping pong that’s rapidly growing in popularity. The sport, which was invented just a decade ago, even has ambitions for making its Olympic debut at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.
“This year, what I’ve been doing is really just going around to as many tournaments as I can and just helping to grow the awareness of the sport,” Lloyd told Insider during a Teqball photo shoot in her native New Jersey. “It’s been really fun. It’s a very fast-emerging sport — it’s great.”
What the heck is Teqball?
Invented in 2012 by a trio of Hungarian soccer enthusiasts, Teqball combines the strategy and playing surface of ping pong — albeit with a specially designed curved table — with the ball and skills known to soccer. Like tennis, players can compete in singles, doubles, or mixed doubles.
A game begins when one player, who is positioned two meters behind the table and within its edges, uses any body part besides their hands or arms to serve the ball over the net and onto their opponent’s side of the table. The opponent — or opponents, in the case of doubles — must play the ball after just one bounce.
Similar to volleyball, players are allowed a maximum three touches before sending the ball back across the table. But a single player cannot use the same part of their body to control the ball twice in succession, nor can they use the same body part on two consecutive returns across the table.
Sound tricky? It can be, Lloyd says, but “you can improvise” and “play to your strengths.”
“It’s fun because you could play with someone who’s maybe not as skilled and they can use different parts of their body,” she said. “You can use your head, you can use your chest. So I think that’s what’s really cool. And even serving, you can use your head as well. You just obviously have to hit it on the correct part of the curve and be able to get it on there.
“But yeah, I think that’s the beauty of it,” Lloyd added. “Anyone can pick it up and play, and I think you can have a wide range of skill sets. That makes it fun.”
Like many other superstars, Lloyd first discovered Teqball as a way to train for soccer
When COVID-19 shut down the world as we knew it, few of us escaped 2020 unscathed in one way or another. Lloyd, who had yet to retire from either the national team or her National Women’s Soccer League club at that point, was no exception.
For the first time in her illustrious, multi-decade professional soccer career, the prolific striker went under the knife to address an injury in her knee. Though the Tokyo Olympics — initially scheduled for the summer of 2020 — were postponed by a year, Lloyd still had a relatively narrow window to return to top form.
That’s when a Teq table arrived at her door.
“I got the table, and obviously everybody was home, so you saw the likes of Beckham and Ronaldinho and all these big-name players playing on their tables,” Lloyd said. “So I started playing, and I actually started using it as a form of rehab coming back. Because the table can flip up, I could actually play it as if it’s a wall.”
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year noted that “your first touch in soccer is so vitally important” and a facet of the game that even stars of her caliber constantly need to hone. Typically, players at all levels will juggle or play “soccer tennis” — “putting a net on the ground and even at times having a higher net because it just works on different parts of your game,” as Lloyd describes it — to work on their touch.
But Teqball is just as effective and much more fun. It’s no wonder it’s attracted a following with some of the best soccer players on the planet.
But Lloyd didn’t have teammates to play against during those early days of the pandemic. Still, she found a formidable foe “playing with my husband.”
To no one’s surprise, her ultra-competitive instincts kicked in once there was an opponent across the table.
“My husband Brian played soccer in high school, and he’s very athletic, so he’s pretty good,” Lloyd said. “And when I was playing, some of my training would be indoor games and he would play usually on the opposite side.”
“We do get competitive,” she added with a smile. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Bringing Teqball to the masses — and to the Olympics
Not long after she hung up her cleats for the final time, Lloyd received an offer from Teqball’s bosses that she couldn’t refuse. They wanted her to become one of the faces of the game and “help hyperbolize the sport,” CEO Ajay Nwosu recalled to Insider.
“Essentially Carli’s name came up several times based on doing our due diligence,” Nwosu said. “She was the right fit for us overall on the global level, and it’s been fantastic so far. She’s amazing. She’s a respected and recognized former Olympian, so it’s been great.”
Lloyd’s been loving it, too. She’s traveled to several tournaments, met some of the top players on the women’s side of the game, and learned more about Teqball’s unique culture.
“The whole awareness piece of it is the most important thing, because there’s still loads of people that have no idea about Teqball,” Lloyd said. “They have no idea it’s being shown on ESPN, no idea that there’s prize money involved for the men and women, that it’s played indoors and it’s played on the beach, or the fact that there’s tables that are just set out in different locations around the US.
“So I think once you bring the awareness out and once you let people know that it’s there, it’s pretty addicting,” she added. “Once you’re watching, you’re just following this ball side to side like a tennis match or ping pong match. And it’s incredible what they display.”
Nwosu and his fellow Teqball executives are confident that Lloyd’s influence will help draw in more players and fans. They’re also hopeful that, with one of America’s most recognizable Olympians in their corner, they can bring Teqball to the grandest stage in all of sports.
The Summer Olympics will descend upon Los Angeles in six short years, and Teqball has already achieved five of the seven requirements necessary for consideration by the International Olympic Committee. Nwosu explained that, generally speaking, the IOC is looking for sports that are popular and accessible, have the institutional backing of federations worldwide, are not very costly to execute, and can attract millennial and Gen Z fans.
“We tick literally all of those boxes,” Nwosu said. “And so I think for us it’s just a matter of not if, but when we can get our International Olympic recognition. And then from there we can be added to the Games in Los Angeles.”
Teqball inked a broadcasting deal with ESPN back in January, so fans interested in checking out top-tier Teqers can tune in to watch on their TVs or via livestreams. The partnership is just one of the many aspects of Teqball’s growth that makes Lloyd excited about the sport’s future.
“When this opportunity came about, I think what intrigued me the most was just that they want to grow the sport,” Lloyd said. “For me, being able to help grow the game of soccer here in the US has been really great. And there’s a sense of pride knowing that you helped bring something along.”
But the ultimate question remains: If Teqball were to earn a seat at the table for the 2028 Olympics, would fans get to see Lloyd suit up for the Stars and Stripes?
“I mean, never say never,” Lloyd said with a chuckle. “But as of now, I’m perfectly at peace with my life.”