Youth soccer getting a boost through new effort

The U.S. Soccer Foundation is launching a national campaign, It’s Everyone’s Game, aimed at dramatically expanding its impact on children across the country through soccer-based programs, organizers announced.

In partnership with communities, municipalities and corporate partners across the country, the foundation is pledging to reach 1 million children annually and build 1,000 soccer courts, called mini-pitches, by 2026.

“Our Soccer for Success program shows that soccer can be the difference between a child who thrives and a child who falls through the cracks,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “Yet far too many children across the country do not have access to soccer programming or the opportunity to engage with a coach who can help them develop critical life skills that support their development on and off the playing field.

“The premise of our work is simple: We train coach-mentors,” said Foster-Simeon. “We make sure there are fields to play on. And we support after-school soccer programs in underserved communities that are offered free to participants. By eliminating barriers and creating opportunities, we help the kids who need us most to not only play soccer, but also to be healthier, more active, and more confident.”

It’s Everyone’s Game will result in a dramatic expansion of the foundation’s proven work in improving physical and social youth development through soccer, organizers said in an announcement last week.

Since after-school programming around Soccer for Success started in 2009, the foundation and its partners have positively impacted over 100,000 children in more than 180 underserved communities around the country, helping them embrace an active, healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth through team-building and mentorship.

According to a recent evaluation of Soccer for Success by American Institutes for Research, 88 percent of participants work better on a team, 86 percent stay away from anti-social behaviors and 72 percent try harder in school.

Internal research validates these findings. Eighty-three percent of children at greater risk for health issues improved or maintained their health. The Department of Justice also cited the program’s unique ability to engage and retain youth who may not enter or stay in a traditional mentoring relationship.

Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO, Citadel, said: “I’ve enjoyed soccer for over 30 years, first as a player and more recently as a coach, where I’ve seen the game teach children the importance of teamwork, the benefits of practice and the joy of competition.”

Major industry and corporate partners will help bring It’s Everyone’s Game to communities across the country.

National partners who are partnering with the foundation include Adidas, Major League Soccer, Musco Lighting and Target.

“Major League Soccer is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by supporting initiatives that enrich and educate youth and promote inclusion at all levels of the sport,” said JoAnn Neale, chief administrative and social responsibility officer of Major League Soccer.

“We’re proud to partner with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to provide access to soccer and grow the game through Soccer for Success programming,” Neale said.

Through its partnership with Adidas, the U.S. Soccer Foundation will be able to provide participants with the equipment and materials necessary to succeed on and off the field. In addition, Adidas will support the campaign by participating in the launch event and providing access to pro-athletes and a dedicated coaching staff who will use the sport of soccer to positively impact these players’ lives.

Target Corp. recently pledged $6 million to support the foundation’s mission to improve lives and communities through soccer by building 100 mini-pitches in communities across the country.

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