Washington, D.C. – Coach-mentors like those in the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s national youth soccer program, Soccer for Success, are the key to putting young people on the path to life-long health and wellness, leadership training, and success, participants at a Foundation congressional briefing said Thursday. 

The Foundation’s programs have become the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities, but participants at the congressional briefing, held in a House committee room, said the leadership of the 3,300 coach-mentors across the country is an essential part of the program’s success.

With a panel discussion moderated by NBC News4 Washington, D.C. anchor Erika Gonzalez, participants and administrators within and from outside the Foundation’s programs spoke on the value of coaching and mentoring for young people and their families. 

Coach-mentor Liana Ponce, who is with the Foundation’s Washington, D.C.-area DC SCORES Soccer for Success program, spoke about how her own participation benefited her personally and how she sees firsthand the benefits of sport for the young people she coaches. “You come together every day, you figure out what are people’s strengths – what are the differences – you can use to make a team.”

Ponce said she’s a teacher in public schools in part to provide an avenue for her coaching of young soccer players. She’s following her own mentors and coaches.

“The coaches I had really impacted my life, and not just in soccer,” she said. “I chose to become a teacher because it would allow me to be a soccer coach as well.”

And another huge value for the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s soccer program is it provides a safe place for young women to come together, she said. 

Another participant in the panel discussion was 11-year-old Jessica Marroquin, who has seen the value of soccer in her own life. She’s been playing for five years and is now on two area teams. 

“I love it,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot in the past five years, and I just hope I can play more.”

Marroquin thought about the coaches and mentors who have made a difference in her life. “They should be caring and respectful.”

Sarah Pickens, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Associate Vice President of Programs, said that growing up, she played all sports, “with a heavy emphasis on soccer,” that led her to professional soccer and, ultimately, coaching young people from three years old to college age. Youth sports, she said, gives young people a platform to practice skills of teamwork, how to win and lose with grace, conflict resolution, resilience, and especially, decision-making. 

It is, she said, “a platform to develop life skills,” and the coach-mentor is “the key and critical piece to creating that safe space, to creating that positive team environment and to creating those life skills.” Foundation coaches, Ponce said, as role models and mentors, are especially important for young people in underserved communities, and especially for girls, because those young people often have less access to organized sports activities. 

Elisabeth Cardiello, founder of Caffè Unimatic and Legacy Out Loud, echoed others on the benefits of team sports like soccer, and the lasting impact it has had on her career from Wall Street to entrepreneurship. “Soccer helped give me confidence. It gave me a community,” she said at the briefing.

The Foundation and MENTOR’s Abbie Evans shared how federal dollars – from the Department of Justice to the Corporation for National and Community Service to 21st Century funding – have expanded access to mentoring programs across the country, including those that leverage coaches as mentors. 

Also speaking on the importance of youth sports programs – and specifically of soccer for young people – were Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa, Florida, and Congressman Darin LaHood of Peoria, Illinois, who, together, are co-chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus.  

Castor, who noted that youth soccer was an important part of her own family, recognized the value of the Foundation’s coach-mentors “to give young people a safe environment to aid in their mental, emotional, and physical development and engender and empower future leaders – especially young women.”

“You are making a huge difference in your communities,” she said.

LaHood, whose family is also very involved in youth soccer, echoed his colleague.

Without the leadership of coach-mentors around the country, “young people would not have the training and guidance to become our soccer superstars – or coach-mentors, or congressmen – of the future.” 

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


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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


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