A Time to Reflect

It’s no secret that the end of the calendar year marks a time to both reflect and set new goals.

As we head into 2019, I find myself thinking back on all the progress we’ve made to impact children in Chicago as a part of a larger movement to bring soccer to communities across the country.

On Dec. 6, 2017, the Chicago Fire organization joined Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Park District, Citadel, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation at Gage Park to make an announcement. Through the Chicago Soccer Initiative, we teamed up to build 50 Safe Places to Play mini-pitches in underserved neighborhoods throughout Chicago over five years, all in support of the Foundation’s effort to build 1,000 of these mini-pitches and engage one million children in Soccer for Success annually by 2026 through It’s Everyone’s Game.

In addition to serving as the launch site for It’s Everyone’s Game and the Chicago Soccer Initiative, the mini-pitches at Gage Park, built in 2017 in partnership with the Chicago Park District, MLS WORKS, SNHU, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, were the first mini-pitches to host the Chicago Fire’s proprietary P.L.A.Y.S. Program.

Gage Park Before & After

The P.L.A.Y.S. Program, which serves Chicago Public School boys and girls in grades three through five, uses soccer to teach key social and emotional learning (SEL) traits and values, such as emotional control, goal setting and attainment, cooperation, and respect.

Importantly, it provides opportunities to children who might not otherwise get the chance to play the beautiful game – 93 percent of P.L.A.Y.S. participants live in communities with social and economic challenges, including high levels of crime, and 95 percent of participants qualify for free or reduced lunch and live at or below the poverty level.

Since its inception, the P.L.A.Y.S. Program has engaged 528 youth across 22 Chicago schools in more than 140,000 hours of soccer.

But the impact of our P.L.A.Y.S. Program runs deeper than the programming that we have in place.

Although our mini-pitch at Irma C. Ruiz Park (formerly known as Walnut Park) only opened a few short months ago, it has not taken long for the community to fully embrace its existence. Juvenal Gomez, an 18-year volunteer with the Parks District, says that, in addition to providing a place where he and other local soccer enthusiasts can get together for pick-up games, the mini-pitch has also introduced the game to young members of the community.

According to Juvenal, many of these individuals don’t have the means to join a club team, so this mini-pitch has played an integral role in providing access to the game.

Juvenal has also been actively taking a group of kids who play on the mini-pitch at Irma C. Ruiz Park around the neighborhood, knocking on doors to introduce themselves to other members of the community. These residents now come to the park to watch the local youth enjoy themselves out on the pitch.

Irma C. Ruiz Park
Not only do initiatives such as Soccer for Success, our P.L.A.Y.S. Program, and the creation of Safe Places to Play mini-pitches make soccer more accessible in communities across the country, they also teach valuable life skills to children who, in turn, become better prepared to lead healthy and productive lives.

While our programming has made a strong impact in the community in 2018, there is still more work that needs to be done and more children whose lives we can positively impact through the beautiful game. With 2019 approaching, we’re eager to continue our meaningful work in the community in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

Jessica Yavitz is the Executive Director of the Chicago Fire Foundation. The Chicago Soccer Initiative launched in December 2017 with the goal of building 50 play spaces throughout Chicago over five years in support of It’s Everyone’s Game. Learn more about the partnership here.


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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.

  • 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.


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