By this time next year, puckelball may have its first U.S. field in St. Paul — thanks to Joy of the People.

I recognize that most readers have not the slightest idea what this means. So let me explain.

Joy of the People (JOTP) is a local nonprofit created by longtime soccer coach Ted Kroeten to replace structured play in youth soccer with free play.

He maintains that leagues have taken the fun out of sports for kids and also left them with underdeveloped skills.

“We’ve forgotten that the world’s best soccer players all grew up on the streets and were discovered later,” Kroeten said.

“We believe that when you’re a kid, you should play, and when you’re an adult, you should work.”

Toward that end, JOTP next year plans to reshape the old ball fields at the South St. Anthony Recreation Center, which it manages under a lease with the city, into a score of different-sized soccer fields and courts. It hopes to win a U.S. Treasury loan to finance much of the $1 million project.

Under JOTP’s management, the South St. Anthony rec center, near University Avenue and Hwy. 280, has become a soccer center. In the winter, the rec center gym is used for futsal — a form of soccer popular in Brazil that is played with a weighted bladder and works well indoors.

One of the fields JOTP plans to build next year would be for puckelball, or mogul ball, an unorthodox version of soccer played on a field with dimensions that might have been sketched by Picasso.

A puckelball field curves like an S, with irregularly shaped goals and mogul mounds scattered here and there.

“It’s another way to show kids a different perspective on playing,” spokesman Ken Webb said.

It’s the brainchild of Swedish artist Johan Strom, who visited St. Paul last week to spread the word on puckelball and meet with a construction design firm. The first two fields were built in Sweden; the one in St. Paul would be the third.

And it might be catching on. Last month, puckelball was one of the ideas proposed in Edina to replace a closed golf course.

“It’s a field designed as a piece of art, an inviting and fun space for kids,” Kroeten said.