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Ahead of the Women’s World Cup, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Johnson & Johnson Invest in Organizations Working to Get More Girls in the Game

Washington, D.C. – In advance of the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Johnson & Johnson today awarded grants to five organizations that will increase opportunities for girls to participate in soccer in communities that have historically been excluded from such opportunities. Through these grants, the awarded organizations have the ability to nearly triple the number of participants collectively impacted over the three-year grant period. Grantees will also work with the Foundation and UpMetrics to develop a report that highlights best practices for increasing female participation in soccer.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girls have 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play sports than their male counterparts. The Women’s Sports Foundation also cites decreased quality of experience – such as lack of quality facilities, trained coaches, and basics such as equipment and uniforms – as a reason why girls may drop out of sports as they grow up.

“Soccer is a powerful tool, not only to get young people active, but to teach important life skills that help them succeed on and off the pitch,” said Sarah Pickens, Associate Vice President of Programs at the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “We’re excited that, in working with these grant recipients to address barriers that have excluded girls from the game in the past, we can make sure that more young females are encouraged to play soccer and can reap all the benefits the sport has to offer.”

Johnson & Johnson’s support of this grant program is part of its Because She Can campaign, which is empowering young girls across the country. Through these grants, awardees will work to combat common obstacles to girls’ access to the game, including economic barriers, lack of gender-inclusive environments, and unequal distribution of resources amongst communities of varied racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“Johnson & Johnson is focused on providing girls with opportunities to grow into strong leaders on and off the pitch,” said Heather Horner, Marketing Manager at Johnson & Johnson. “As part of our Because She Can campaign to empower young women, we’re proud to partner with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to offer assistance to amazing organizations working to develop girls into leaders of the future through soccer.”

In December 2017, the Foundation launched It’s Everyone’s Game, a movement to ensure that children living in underserved communities enjoy the health and youth development benefits of the game. The Foundation also announced its goals to engage one million children in Soccer for Success, the Foundation’s evidence-based after-school program, and build 1,000 safe places to play by 2026. These grants represent one of the many ways that the U.S. Soccer Foundation and its partners are working to make soccer everyone’s game.



Adelante Mujeres provides holistic education and empowerment opportunities to Latina women and their families. The Chicas Soccer Academy was specifically designed to address the academic and social-emotional needs of Latina youth in grades 3-12 by using soccer as a tool to facilitate mentorship and leadership development. As many Latina girls in this area are excluded from quality soccer programming, the Academy has operated at no cost to its participants since its inception eight years ago.

Currently, Adelante Mujeres is developing a manual outlining their best practices to engage Latina girls through youth development work, and a large component of that document will highlight the effectiveness of the Chicas Soccer Academy. Their grant funding will ensure continued program quality through the retention of trained staff and coaches who have built essential relationships with participants and their families.


The Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) operates in eight schools in the Bay Area where socio-economic barriers preventing girls from participating in sports are greatest. In this girls-only afterschool program, girls in grades 2-5 participate in one session per week for 16 weeks, where they rotate through various physical activities to build coordination, improve fitness, and have fun. Their evidence-based ACCESS model for youth development encourages Activity, Connection, Contribution, Expectations, Skills for Life, and a Sense of Belonging, and has demonstrably shown to improve girls’ likelihood of participating in physical activity, wanting to join a sports team, and wanting to be a leader. Funding from this grant will allow BAWSI to expand soccer programming an additional two days per week at all eight sites, where interest in increased soccer offerings has already been expressed.


San Mateo County Sheriff’s Activity League (SAL) was developed out of the need to create a safe environment for young people to learn life skills, build positive social networks, improve mental and emotional health, and develop self-determination within predominately Latino communities in San Mateo County. SAL is entering its third year of girls-specific soccer programming, which implements mentorship and leadership models that are reinforced by data-informed outreach and wraparound services. By removing financial barriers to participate and recruiting female coaches reflective of the population served, San Mateo SAL has doubled participation in girl-specific soccer programming each year since its inception. Funding for San Mateo SAL will continue to support the growth of the player-to-coach pipeline mentorship program by recruiting and retaining female coaches who mentor the younger teams.


South Bronx United (SBU) first started implementing girl-specific programming eight years ago, which includes both competitive and recreational soccer divisions for ages 6-18 during fall and spring seasons, as well as day camps in the summer months.

The current focus of the SBU girls soccer program is to reach African-American and African immigrant communities in the Bronx. Led by multi-disciplinary program staff on the field and in school, girls participate in female-centric discussion groups, outreach, and community events. They also fill leadership roles within their team, school, and community. With this funding, South Bronx United will build out their efforts in three areas: recruitment efforts for more diverse female participants of all ages, the development of a soccer culture for girls in the Bronx, and the addition of an afterschool site for elementary-aged girls.


The Starfinder Foundation uses soccer to inspire social change and transform girls’ lives, one-third of whom are immigrants from communities with limited access to safe places or quality youth development programs. The organization’s year-round programming takes place afterschool and on weekends, ensuring that the young women have ample opportunities to play. Female coach-mentors support girls through social-emotional learning, leadership sessions, life skills workshops, and Youth Council meetings that shape participants’ ability to coach as they get older.

In response to their participants’ unique needs, Starfinder uses a strengths-based, positive youth development framework paired with trauma-sensitive practices that reward and reinforce positive behaviors. Grant funding will go towards building upon Starfinder’s successful high school program, expanding their reach to middle school girls, and building out their tiered-mentorship model.

About the 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 or follow us on Twitter  and Facebook.

Jennifer Arnold