2018 Urban Soccer Symposium in Review

Leaders and innovators from the sports-based youth development network from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. from March 23-25th for the 12th annual Urban Soccer Symposium.

These leaders and innovators kicked off the Symposium with Capitol Hill Day, where they met with their Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill to inform them about work being done in their districts and on funding priorities important to their organizations.

Hector Avila of Houston Parks and Recreation participated in Capitol Hill Day for the eighth consecutive year, this time to urge his representatives to continue supporting their major funders, such as AmeriCorps and the Youth Mentoring Program. “It helped that she was a former council member in Houston,” Hector said of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. “We gave her an overview of what Soccer for Success is doing in Houston in all 20 different locations, how it’s changing the culture. She was really touched by that.” After discussing the programming, Hector and his colleagues were about to get to the issue of funding when the Congresswoman stopped them mid-sentence and ensured them that their funding would not be cut.


Day one of the Symposium began with a keynote presentation from Houston Kraft, co-founder of CharacterStrong, a series of trainings and curriculums that create more compassionate cultures in schools and communities. During the session, attendees interacted with new faces while learning the power of being proactively kind.

The breakout sessions touched on a variety of topics, ranging from how to leverage soccer for social change to how to make the sport “sticky” by using art and poetry to build a sense of community.

The Foundation presented two of its three Urban Soccer Symposium awards in the influence and impact categories on Friday. Toya Williford accepted the 2018 Influence Award on behalf of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was recognized for his work in assisting the Foundation’s efforts to develop the New York City Soccer Initiative. South Bronx United received the Impact Award for its work to combine soccer with forms of assistance such as academic enrichment, college prep, mentoring, and immigration legal services.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph led the lunchtime keynote plenary session, where he took a deep dive into the cultural complexities of soccer, including ways in which the global sport may be used to connect young people with the arts and bring awareness to issues facing immigrant communities. Two young participants were there to share their poetry.


Attendees sprang into action on day two of the Symposium, where a handful of them spent the day earning their Urban Soccer Diploma. During this course, attendees learned best practices and tricks for coaching in non-traditional soccer settings. In addition to on-field demonstrations, Diploma sessions included “Understanding the Youth We Serve,” “Designing and Implementing Lessons in an Urban Setting,” and “Best Practices in Youth Development.”

“It was great to be with a group of like-minded coaches dedicated to bringing the beautiful game of soccer to underserved communities across the U.S.,” said Lenny Muckle of Ambassadors Football Pittsburgh, who now feels that he has the “tools to help meet the emotional and physical needs of those we serve. I am a better coach and hope my kids become better players because of the course.”

Mark Dessauer of Spitfire Strategies led the Saturday morning session with a lesson on interactive storytelling. Attendees learned how to use the power of storytelling to craft the perfect elevator pitch and how to master other communication techniques to connect with funders.

Saturday also saw Seattle Housing Authority’s Yesler Redevelopment receive the 2018 Innovation Award for investing its redevelopment dollars into pocket parks and play areas that reorient neighborhood to create safe places to play.

innovation award

Dr. Irving C. Jones examined the role of sports in meeting the needs of today’s youth during the lunch plenary session. He also inspired attendees to develop the tools they need to act as fearless leaders for the youth and communities that they serve.

The Urban Soccer Symposium culminated on Sunday with two Q&A panels with former U.S. National Team stars Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly, Kasey Keller, and Edson Buddle. Six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, Abby Wambach, emphasized the power of a positive, strong team environment. “For me, the team-first mentality is something that we embody and that we live out every single day of our lives,” she said. “And I think that’s a big reason why the [national] team…was so successful is because everyone had that personality on some level.”

Kristine Lilly, who holds the world record for international caps (352) on both the men’s and women’s side, noted that coaches in her younger years had a big impact on her game. “The first thing they did for us was create a fun atmosphere. Back then, I just remember I had fun going out there and playing.”


Both Abby and Kristine shared their thoughts about the importance of youth soccer in the United States. Kristine, who coaches soccer clinics across the country, said that kids “come alive when they’re out on the field…We want these kids to feel like they matter and that what they’re doing is productive. And I think if we get in an environment where, around the country, the kids do have opportunities…then things will change.”

“When people move their bodies, they’re going to have more confidence,” Abby said. “When people move their bodies, they’re going to have less depression, they’re going to be more engaged, they’re going to be better students, they’re going to be better community service members. Whatever it is, we know that getting kids involved in sports isn’t just necessarily an opportunity for them to maybe one day play on their high school team or college team, but also give back to their own community, their own families.”

Throughout lunch, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Ed Foster-Simeon, led a Q&A panel with former Men’s National Team stars Kasey Keller and Edson Buddle. Kasey shared his experience of competing in several leagues overseas, while Edson shared what led him from the A-League to the national stage at the 2010 World Cup. While Kasey and Edson had different experiences, they shared similar opinions on how to nurture young athletes in the United States.

“The first and foremost thing we’re trying to do when it comes to sports is giving our kids an outlet to have fun, to have physical activity, to grow as kids,” said Kasey.

Edson maintained that young players thrive when “you have a coach that pushes you…that is passionate about the kids.”


Throughout the weekend, attendees from 34 U.S. states participated in the 2018 Urban Soccer Symposium. Click here for more photos from the event.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Join the U.S. Soccer Foundation in the movement to improve lives through soccer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • adidas


    adidas, the Foundation’s Safe Places to Play – Mini-Pitch Partner, supports providing children in underserved communities with safe play spaces nationwide. adidas strives to be the globally leading and most popular sporting goods brand. Dedicated to innovation,  adidas embraces creativity and seeks to be socially responsible in all facets of its brand. For more information, please visit adidas.com.

  • APT


    APT (Advanced Polymer Technology), the Foundation’s Partner for Acrylic Coating Products, is a global leader in high performance sports surfaces. APT provides people around the world with safe, reliable, performance enhancing surfaces. APT’s Laykold Masters acrylic surfacing system will be the official surface of an estimated 500 mini-pitches. For more information on APT, please visit www.sportsbyapt.com.

  • CHA


    CHA Sports, the Foundation’s Supplier for Soccer Facility Design and Planning Services, provides community partners with expertise in soccer facility design. CHA Sport’s full service approach allows the company to build world-class projects without breaking budgets. For more information, please visit chacompanies.com

  • The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

    DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit SportsMatter.org.

  • Johnson & Johnson

    Johnson & Johnson

    Johnson & Johnson, the Foundation’s grant partner, is dedicated to supporting the next generation of female leaders by providing greater access to girls’ youth soccer programming in underserved communities nationwide. As the world’s largest and most broadly based healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson strives to create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. For more information, please visit www.jnj.com.

  • Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal

    Kwik Goal, the Foundation’s Official Supplier for goals, seating, boundary equipment, training equipment and coaching accessories, will be supporting a variety of Foundation programs and initiatives including: Soccer for Success, National Training and the Safe Places to Play program. Over thirty years ago, Kwik Goal was founded on the revolutionary concept of providing transportable goals for coaches at all age levels. Since that time, Kwik Goal has continued to focus on helping coaches and soccer programs create safe and dynamic learning environments by supplying high quality, safety tested soccer goals, field equipment and training equipment to the domestic and international market. For more information, please visit Kwikgoal.com.



    MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS WORKS is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by executing national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertaking various initiatives in underserved communities.

  • Musco


    As a proud corporate partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco is dedicated to helping the major charitable arm of American soccer create new opportunities through high-quality sports lighting. Their Total Light Control—TLC for LED™ technology is engineered as a system with lighting, structural, and electrical components designed to work together for streamlined installation and long-term reliability. TLC for LED delivers superior field lighting while eliminating glare and spill from impacting surrounding neighborhoods. And Musco’s long-term warranty covering parts and labor means U.S. Soccer Foundation partners don’t have to handle any maintenance on their system, or pay for it, for 25 years. Visit https://ussoccerfoundation.org/grants/ to learn more about the grant program and application process.

  • SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports

    SCORE Sports, the preferred provider of shin guards to the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, is a family-owned and operated business specializing in sports equipment, uniforms and apparel. SCORE is an industry leader and has been involved in the sports community for over 40 years. SCORE outfits athletes with high-quality uniforms that SCORE develops, designs and manufactures in the U.S. SCORE takes pride in working with various non-profit groups and causes to give back to athletes who may need some extra support to play the game they love. SCORE is environmentally cautious with the materials it uses for its products and does its part in minimizing our environmental footprint. SCORE proudly offers a wide variety of products to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all your soccer needs. For more information, please visit scoresports.com.

  • Soccer.com


    Soccer.com, the Foundation’s National Partner for Soccer Equipment and Uniforms, was founded in 1984 to provide high quality soccer gear at reasonable prices through its nationally circulated catalog. Soccer.com embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit soccer.com.

  • Target


    Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

  • TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide

    TGI Worldwide, the Foundation’s National Partner for Visual Branding (Signage, Event Décor, Pageantry, Sponsorship Activation), Perimeter Field Board Systems, Creative Services and Event Operations is proud to support a variety of initiatives and programs throughout the United States. Headquartered in the U.S., TGI is an internationally recognized sports marketing company delivering high profile Visual Branding, Live Event Management, LED, and cutting edge Digital Sports Applications to enrich the experience at major events and deliver commercial impact for sponsors and partners. The company has a 20-year history in providing its various solutions for many top-tier domestic and international events, organizations, teams and companies, with proven success and turn-key solutions across 1000+ events, 160+ cities and 50+ countries globally.

    For more information on our services, please visit https://www.worldwidetgi.com or contact Mike Squire at msquire@worldwidetgi.com / Phone: 312-371-5852.

  • World Soccer Shop

    World Soccer Shop

    Launched in 2001, World Soccer Shop is an online soccer retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama. It carries one of the world’s widest selections of officially-licensed products from the sport’s top brands and teams. World Soccer Shop is passionate about soccer and endeavors to spread the beautiful game around the world, especially to those in areas of need. For more information, please visit www.worldsoccershop.com.


Tweet or post on Facebook and show the world
that you believe in the power of soccer.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter