New Just Ball League will utilize mini-pitches for competitive league play that prioritizes fun, friendship, and inclusivity, starting in NYC and LA this fall
May 17, 2022 – To continue to chip away at barriers and level the playing the field, adidas and the U.S. Soccer Foundation today announced that they will launch new free, competitive neighborhood soccer leagues in New York City and Los Angeles this fall.
That’s because despite slight gains in youth sports participation over the past year, youth living in low-income households and Hispanic and Black youth still lag behind their more affluent and white peers when it comes to playing sports on a regular basis, according to the latest Project Play report released in October 2021 by the Aspen Institute.
The new Just Ball League will be free to participants and hyper-localized, using the mini-pitch infrastructure that adidas, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and other partners have created over the past six years. The mini-pitches will serve as league hubs, providing state-of-the-art spaces for play that are easily accessible in neighborhoods across both cities.
At its core, the Just Ball League will work to provide fair, balanced, and equitable access to the sport of soccer while breaking down barriers, such as transportation and cost, that often stand in the way of children from underserved communities being able to play.
The league will utilize coaches as stewards of play and instill a sports-based youth development ethos that prioritizes fun in a competitive environment. Most importantly, the Just Ball league will focus on inclusion and belonging—using soccer as a vehicle to unite people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Weekly league matches will also further embed pick-up culture into the community and maximize the usage of the mini-pitches.
“The Just Ball League will be the latest addition to the adidas Football Collective (aFC),” said Ellie Gail, Senior Director of the Soccer Business Unit at adidas North America. “aFC is our brand’s global soccer community platform whose mission is to tear down barriers, create opportunities, and enable anyone to experience the beautiful game.”
“Mini-pitches have literally transformed the landscape of communities and have been critical in providing greater access to the game by removing transportation barriers in underserved areas,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “We’re excited to use these mini-pitches to advance play equity by supporting free, competitive league play that will continue to create opportunities for children in underserved communities. This new league will also help us increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our game. The Just Ball League brings us one step closer to creating a future where everyone who wants to play, can.”
The first season of the Just Ball league will take place in fall 2022 with the second season slated to kick off in spring 2023. The Just Ball League will be free for youth, and adidas will provide kits and equipment to further reduce any cost or equipment barriers.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation plans to work with longtime community partners to run the league in each market, including the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) in NYC. The partnering community organizations will work to ensure the coach-mentors who help lead the league reflect the communities of the kids they are supporting.
More than 10,000 youth will participate in the Just Ball League during the first two seasons. Each season, the Just Ball League will culminate in a city-wide cup that will celebrate soccer and its ability to unite people from different backgrounds. These city-wide cups aim to bring together the players and families as well as fans and local community members to celebrate the end of each season. These events may incorporate other activations around the 2022 and 2023 FIFA World Cups, of which adidas is a sponsor.
The launch of the Just Ball League builds on a longtime partnership between adidas and the U.S. Soccer Foundation. Together, the two organizations have made great strides to improve access to the game of soccer and use the sport to transform and improve children’s lives in underserved communities. The two organizations have created more than 100 mini-pitches together and are actively working to engage and retain more girls in soccer and train more women coach-mentors through the United for Girls initiative. adidas also continues to support the Foundation’s signature Soccer for Success program that helps children establish positive social, emotional, and physical health behaviors and skills. Designed for children ages 6-14, the program is offered at little or no cost to participants and their families.
For more information about the U.S. Soccer Foundation and its programs, visit www.ussoccerfoundation.org.
ABOUT U.S. SOCCER FOUNDATION
The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs are the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has established programs proven to help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Its cost-effective, high-impact initiatives offer safe environments where kids and communities thrive. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Soccer Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information visit www.ussoccerfoundation.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Jennifer Arnold, U.S. Soccer Foundation