CHICAGO, Dec. 5, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 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. To kick off the campaign, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Fire Soccer Club will announce their support for the initiative by committing to build 50 soccer play spaces in underserved neighborhoods in the next five years. The project is made possible by a $3 million gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund and a substantial contribution from the Hauptman family and Chicago Fire Soccer Club. In partnership with communities, municipalities and corporate partners across the country, the Foundation is pledging to reach one million children annually and build 1,000 soccer courts, called mini-pitches, by 2026.
Former U.S. National Team stars Kristine Lilly, Staci Wilson, Cobi Jones and Brian McBride will also be on hand at the event to commit their support to the It's Everyone's Game campaign. McBride is also a former Chicago Fire player.
"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 & CEO, 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. 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. 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 (AIR), 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.
Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District, in partnership with Chicago Fire Soccer Club, are making a major commitment to expand access to soccer play spaces in underserved neighborhoods across the city. In addition, the Mayor's Office and Chicago Park District will work with the Foundation, schools and other community-based organizations to expand Soccer for Success.
"These new soccer pitches will give young people across Chicago state-of-the-art places to play and learn one of the world's most exciting and popular games," said Mayor Emanuel. "This partnership provides a great opportunity for our youth to stay active, and gain teamwork and leadership skills that will serve them on and off the field throughout their lives."
"I am thrilled to support the U.S. Soccer Foundation's efforts to provide children across Chicago greater opportunities to play soccer," said Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO, Citadel. "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."
"These mini-pitches will transform the everyday lives of Chicagoland children, and further grow the passion for soccer across our city," said Andrew Hauptman, Owner and Chairman, Chicago Fire Soccer Club. "I'm very proud that the Chicago Fire Soccer Club is partnering with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Mayor Emanuel, Ken Griffin, and the Chicago Park District in order to make such an important and positive impact throughout our community. This initiative perfectly complements the extensive community programming that the Fire has developed and runs throughout Chicago."
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 & Social Responsibility Officer, 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."
"Musco has been a longtime partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation and has lent support to its mission for nearly two decades," said Jeff Rogers, Vice President of Sales, Musco Lighting. "Soccer for Success is a great program to benefit thousands of young people across the country who need and deserve an opportunity to have access to coach mentors and safe places to play in their communities, and we are proud to support the Foundation's It's Everyone's Game campaign in making this happen."
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. (NYSE: TGT) 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.
Other metropolitan areas that have taken steps to joining in It's Everyone's Game include: Baltimore, MD; Columbus, OH; Hendersonville, TN; Houston, TX; Kansas City, MO; Louisville, KY; Miami, FL; Nashville, TN; Newark, NJ; North Miami, FL; Oklahoma City, OK; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Reno, NV; Rochester, NY; San Bernardino, CA; Tucson, AZ; and Washington, DC.
Additionally, the City of New York recently opened the first 10 of 50 mini-pitches as part of a public-private partnership to build and maintain fields in underserved areas.
In early 2017, Mayor Emanuel joined the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Major League Soccer and the Chicago Fire Soccer Club officials to open the two mini-pitches in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood, where today's event will be held. The pitches were also supported by MLS WORKS (MLS' community outreach initiative), Southern New Hampshire University and the Chicago Park District. The pitches support local youth programming, including the Chicago Fire Soccer Club's P.L.A.Y.S Program and the Chicago Police Department's new Community Engagement through Sports initiative.
It's Everyone's Game at its core represents access and inclusion. As an extension of this ethos, the Foundation will be unveiling customized pitch crests for each partner city as symbols of local engagement between the broader soccer community and It's Everyone's Game. The uniquely-designed campaign pitch crests will be available on the campaign website for participants to share on social media channels using #EveryonesGame.
For more information about It's Everyone's Game, how to stay updated on the campaign, and ways to get involved, visit itseveryonesgame.org.
About the U.S. Soccer Foundation
The U.S. Soccer Foundation's programs are the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has established programs proven to help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Its cost-effective, high-impact initiatives offer safe environments where kids and communities thrive. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Soccer Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization. Follow us on Twitter at @ussoccerfndn and Facebook at facebook.com/ussoccerfoundation.
U.S. Soccer Foundation
SOURCE U.S. Soccer Foundation