A Pitch in Portland

Since the launch of the mini-pitch initiative in 2015, the U.S. Soccer Foundation has installed more than 160 Safe Places to Play in underserved communities across the United States. Mini-pitches are small, acrylic soccer courts perfect for areas where quality play spaces are at a premium. These mini-pitches restore abandoned parking lots, tennis courts, and otherwise underutilized hard-surface spaces and transform them into safe community hubs.

On Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018, Wilkes Elementary School in Portland, Oregon opened their brand new mini-pitch thanks to a charitable donation from the W.J. Silverstein Family Trust, a Portland-based philanthropic family foundation. This is the twelfth mini-pitch in the Portland area: seven are in the city of Portland, two in Gresham, two in Forest Grove, and one in Wood Village. As he observed children trying out their skills and enjoying themselves, this new space meant something special for one community member in particular.

Ricardo “Ricki” Ruiz has lived his entire life in Gresham, a city 16 miles east of Portland. He began working in the local government in 2012 after graduating high school. Since then, Ricki has held various positions in Gresham and currently serves as a board liaison for the Reynolds School District.

In recent years, Ricki has noticed an increased interest in soccer amongst the Gresham community despite a lack of quality play spaces to meet this demand. Ricki views this passion for soccer as something deeply engrained in his community. “Soccer has been a sport that a vast majority of our population, which is predominately Latino, grows up knowing and learning,” according to Ricki. He recalls seeing children play soccer in parking lots, using their backpacks as goals and an old soccer ball that has been torn up from years of use. In addition, he has witnessed parents across the community seek affordable ways for their children to play soccer as the community’s passion for the game grows.

As a soccer player himself and active community member, Ricki made initial connections between the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the City of Gresham about mini-pitches at East Rockwood Park and Aspen Highlands Park. 

In the summer of 2018, Ricki identified Wilkes Elementary – a school with more than 460 students – as another site where a new soccer space could make a positive impact in the community. As a board liaison, Ricki made the introduction between the Reynolds School District and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and also helped facilitate the actual installation of the mini-pitch. “I kind of had to wear both hats as a city employee and a Reynolds board member, to make this mini-pitch come to reality,” said Ricki.

In addition to being available for school and community use, local sports-based youth development organization Active Children Portland runs the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success programming at the Wilkes Elementary mini-pitch. Soccer for Success, offered free to participants, is an after-school program that connects children with coach-mentors from whom they learn critical life skills and healthy habits. Ricki highlights the impact quality programming can have on mini-pitches by saying, “Building a mini-pitch and having ongoing programming that kids and families can be part of keeps these mini-pitches alive.”

One of Ricki’s favorite “mini-pitch moments” is observing the bonds made by children who come from all over the world. Representing the diversity of the Gresham community, one will often find children with a variety of cultural backgrounds at the Wilkes pitch. “Although they often arrive at the mini-pitches speaking different languages, they’re able to communicate through the ‘soccer language.’” Through this universal language, children leave with memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Interested in bringing a mini-pitch to your community? Learn more about mini-pitches – including what makes a good site and how to suggest a location – on our website, or contact Safe Places to Play Director Alex Bard at abard@ussoccerfoundation.org.


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  • 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.

  • 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.

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    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.



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    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.

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    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.

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    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.


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