Children in underserved communities already face daunting odds: Without our help, COVID-19 will make matters so much worse

The term 20/20 is often associated with visual acuity. The year 2020 is giving us a painfully clear view of the extraordinary challenges faced by children in underserved communities and the pressing need for our collective help.

Many school buildings in underserved communities are not equipped to adopt the new safety measures needed to host classes safely in person during the pandemic, according to a recent Politico article. Yet studies have found that full-time online learning does not deliver the academic results of in-class instruction. As a result, students are falling further and further behind. Educators in school districts across the country have already reported lower attendance among children who lack reliable internet connections and other equipment needed to be successful in the virtual setting.

According to a McKinsey & Company analysis of COVID-19’s impact on learning loss, Black and Hispanic students may fall behind by nearly a year. What’s more, students living in low-income households may fall behind their peers by even more than a year. The McKinsey analysis also predicts that remote learning will likely increase high-school drop-out rates, as the virus is disrupting many of the supports that can help kids stay in school. Those include academic engagement and achievement, strong relationships with caring adults, and supportive afterschool programming, including youth sports.

Experts say that to avoid the worst possible outcomes, there is an urgent need to intervene immediately to support the most vulnerable students. If government, foundations, corporations and individual philanthropists fail to invest in those supports, they will have abandoned a generation of children who were already facing daunting odds.

In addition to academic support, students will likely need more social and emotional support from counselors and therapists because of spending months in social isolation, often while families experience job loss, economic hardship, and illness, according to a recent article from the New York Times.

Now, more than ever, consistent, positive interactions with caring adults, regular physical activity, and the continued development of social and emotional skills is crucial to the health and well-being of children. That’s where youth sports can play a key role. Research shows that positive sports experiences are associated with a range of benefits for youth, including: higher future earnings; less smoking and drug use; decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and childhood obesity; higher academic achievement and productivity; improved life skills; and better overall mental health and self-esteem, according to The Aspen Institute’s Project Play Initiative.

At the U.S. Soccer Foundation, we engage students from underserved communities and deliver positive health and youth development outcomes through soccer: 48% of participants in our programs are Hispanic and 34% are African American, and more than 90% qualify for free or reduced-price meals, a key indicator of poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the importance of our work, and we’ve adapted to ensure our sports-based youth development program – Soccer for Success – continues to run this fall.

Our program is now being offered through pre-recorded video sessions (which families and children can participate in at a time that works best for them), live virtual sessions with local coach-mentors, or in-person socially distanced sessions where it’s safe to do so. In addition, all Soccer for Success coach-mentors receive online training that is specifically designed to prepare them to deliver the program and mentorship across these new settings.

Why is having this type of consistent program so important? It provides children much-needed space to form social and emotional connections with caring adults and peers. It provides an outlet for physical activity and a space for learning about health and wellness in a non-traditional school setting.

Because Soccer for Success is fun and engaging, youth are more likely to participate on a regular basis and stay involved in the program – and engaged in school. In fact, the Department of Justice cited the program’s unique ability to engage and retain youth who may not enter or stay in a traditional mentoring relationship. We believe that even in the virtual setting, this will continue to be the case as students will look forward to time spent with their coaches and friends, playing a sport they love.

Traditional classes and education remain the major keys to success for young people. But children in underserved communities benefit greatly from a wide range of interventions that help keep them engaged in school and on the path to success.

We encourage government, corporations, foundations and individual philanthropist to recognize and leverage sports-based youth development programming as an impactful tool when designing the comprehensive response required to meet the challenges the pandemic presents to children in underserved communities.


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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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



    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 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

  •, 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. embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit




  • 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 or contact Mike Squire at / 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


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

Share on facebook
Share on twitter