Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., with more than 9 million kids playing in youth soccer leagues last year alone. But getting in the game isn’t always easy—costs for equipment and registration fees can add up fast, and in some neighborhoods, there are no playing fields for miles around.
To help more kids and families get in on the fun, Target just announced a $14 million commitment to local youth soccer through two new national initiatives—an $8 million local soccer grant program, and a $6 million partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build 100 new soccer play spaces by 2020. These investments are our latest commitments to helping grow the sport since our announcement earlier this year.
Why go big in soccer? We like to say Target didn’t choose soccer—our guests chose it for us. And we’re seeing the sport continue to grow in the communities where we do business. It connects players, fans, families across cultures in urban, suburban and rural communities, plus it’s a great way to stay physically active.
“Target’s commitment to soccer brings the game to more kids and families across the country, and increases involvement at all levels, from local youth leagues to professional teams. Our multi-dimensional approach allows us to engage with players, fans and families, no matter how they participate in the sport,” said Rick Gomez, chief marketing officer, Target. “These two new programs reinforce the importance the game plays at the local level. Both unlock access to youth soccer and give Target the ability to connect with our guests and team members in new ways.”
Helping communities and schools gear up
This month, we’re launching our local youth soccer grant program to make the sport more accessible for kids from 5 to 18 years old. Over the next four years, we’ll provide annual grants of $1,000 to eligible schools, government agencies and nonprofit organizations on behalf of each of our stores and distribution centers, with a preference given to programs serving in-need communities. These grants will help cover player registration fees, field equipment and gear, and professional development for volunteer coaches. Applications are open now through Aug. 30—we’ll award the first round of grants in November 2017.
Building safe and fun new places to play
We’re also teaming up with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build 100 new soccer play spaces across the U.S. by 2020. Together, we’ll transform the landscape of underserved communities, turning play deserts into safe and accessible places to play, and creating more opportunities for youth to get involved through after-school programs and organized sports. And here’s a fun fact: The first three of those play spaces will come to life in Chicago—home of the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. Check out an example of what a play space might look like:
In addition to these new programs, we’re also continuing our support of youth soccer through our partnership with US Youth Soccer, the country’s largest youth sports organization. We’re their Official Retailer, an Official Partner and the presenting sponsor of the Target United Cup—the largest recreational youth soccer tournament in the country.