Major League Soccer announced today the launch of Soccer For All week (May 10-16) to highlight the collective efforts and strategic partnerships taking place throughout the League to foster more inclusive and equitable communities.
First introduced by MLS in 2018 through MLS WORKS, the League’s social responsibility platform, Soccer For All signifies that everyone is welcome to MLS, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and emphasizes the League’s commitment to drive positive social change and end discrimination.
“MLS players, clubs, staff and partners aligned for historic events in 2020. Now back for our 26th season, the League remains committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at our stadiums and in our communities,” said JoAnn Neale, MLS President & Chief Administrative Officer. “We’re proud of our League-wide dedication, on and off the field, to provide an environment where everyone feels welcome and safe.”
MLS and its clubs will conduct initiatives year-long that provide inclusive opportunities in-stadium and for members of the local community including sensory rooms, mini-pitch builds and youth soccer programming, equipment donations to underserved and underrepresented communities, and first-team experiences for individuals with and without intellectual and physical disabilities.
Soccer For All week activations taking place include:
Kicking off today, the EduCup Challenge is a multi-League virtual competition created by EVERFI to provide students with tools on how to create a positive environment in-school, on social media and throughout their community. Included in the competition is MLS Actions Matter, a bullying prevention program. Students will compete for one of five $1,000 academic scholarships or a tablet or laptop computer. In addition, school faculty members will have the chance to win their school $5,000 towards technology to help with the digital divide.
· In partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the League and its clubs have been building Safe Places to Play mini-pitches in MLS communities since 2015. As part of Soccer For All week, we’ll be celebrating the collaborations in our local markets to support It’s Everyone’s Game and showcase the collective efforts of players, clubs and partners to highlight the importance of play equity and provide greater access for youth from underserved communities to play the game and learn critical life skills.
· The “Soccer For All Speaker Series,” a season-long program by MLS WORKS in partnership with the League’s employee resource groups (ERGs), will continue to amplify underrepresented voices. As part of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, MLS WORKS will collaborate with the Asians in MLS ERG and Extratime driven by Continental Tire, where Andrew Wiebe will host New York Red Bulls’ Captain Sean Davis in a conversation to shine light on important issues touching the AAPI community. The full podcast will be available at 5:00 PM ET on Thursday, May 13th at https://www.mlssoccer.com/video/topics/extratime/.
- To commemorate LGBTQ+ Pride month in June, MLS clubs will kick-off local activations and in-stadium nights during Soccer For All week to celebrate the League’s diverse and inclusive communities. Fans will also have an opportunity to purchase adidas Pride training tops beginning May 15th at MLSstore.com or at select stadium retail locations, as part of Love Unites, adidas’ global campaign promoting equity in sport and reinforcing how the love of sport unites us all.
· As part of the League’s long-term commitment to address the racial inequalities that exist throughout soccer and in recognition of the upcoming Juneteenth celebration, which commemorates the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865, MLS and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Incorporated (NCBW) will partner with Chicago Fire FC to launch a workforce development program during Soccer For All week, consisting of virtual career days and a national webinar. NCBW’s mission is to advocate on behalf of black women and girls to promote leadership development and gender equality in the areas of health, education, and economic empowerment.
MLS clubs will be activating to support various organizations and social causes during Soccer For All week. A sample of initiatives include:
· Austin FC will highlight their Verde Leaders program, which provides after school soccer programming, combined with social-emotional learning, Restorative Justice, and mindfulness education to low-income youth in the community. Additionally, the club will host a Restorative Circle event at Q2 stadium where Austin FC staff will lead discussions with community leaders on how Q2 can be an inclusive and equitable environment for all. The Club will also announce the June 1st release of the commemorative Austin FC Pride Patch, available at its stadium retail store. Proceeds will benefit the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Education Fund, which supports local LGBTQIA+ businesses and future entrepreneurs.
· Colorado Rapids will host a practice with their local power soccer team, the Rolling Rapids, team mascot, Rapids Man, and front office staff as a part of a continued partnership with the Rolling Rapids team. Additionally, on Monday, May 10th, MLS will release a podcast that spotlights the Rolling Rapids. To conclude the week, the Rapids will host tryouts for their local Special Olympics Unified team on Saturday, May 15th.
· LA Galaxy will host a community event in partnership with Little Tokyo Service Center, where they will distribute soccer balls that will be utilized in upcoming youth programming at the center. Along with the equipment donation, LA Galaxy Foundation will donate to the “Little Tokyo Eats” program which provides food for local community members in need.
· In furtherance of Seattle Sounders FC and RAVE Foundation’s belief that the right to play is a human right, RAVE is organizing a free soccer play day for kids, including a clinic and ball giveaway in the Chinatown-International District. The event features pop-up 2v2 soccer on five mini-fields for free play, a skills clinic and ball giveaway for 100 youth living in the C-ID, all of whom are additionally receiving a pass for free admission to Wing Luke Museum, as well as a community vaccination clinic. In addition to the event, Sounders FC is supporting and storytelling around local AAPI-owned small businesses on their social and digital channels. Sounders FC is also elevating the voices of local historical and cultural experts – throughout the month of May, fans who wear their Sounders FC jersey to Wing Luke Museum will receive free admission.
· Toronto FC will share a club statement outlining their vision of advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in soccer and society. Toronto FC will also highlight their “Huddle Up Bullying Prevention” assembly, which featured MLS Great, Dwayne De Rosario discussing inclusion and Soccer For Allwith students. In addition, Toronto FC will showcase their various diversity, equity and inclusion efforts throughout the week, including their partnership with Special Olympics Ontario, as well as the work the club is doing as a part of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Foundation’s “Change the Game” campaign and Kickstart program.
Soccer For All week will be featured on broadcast, in-stadium and through social and digital channels. Soccer For All T-shirts are available for purchase at MLSstore.com with a percentage of proceeds benefiting MLS WORKS and local club charitable partners.
To join the conversation, fans are encouraged to use #SoccerForAll on social media and to follow @MLSWORKS on Twitter and Instagram to see how clubs are activating in the community. For more information on Soccer For All, and other MLS WORKS initiatives, visit MLSsoccer.com/mlsworks.