Initiative to Bring Soccer Pitches to Miami-Dade
With a gift of $5 million from Citadel founder and CEO Kenneth Griffin, the U.S. Soccer Foundation plans to develop 50 new mini-pitches for soccer in Miami-Dade County. The Miami-Dade County Soccer Initiative is a $10 million campaign that will dramatically increase opportunities for children living in under-resourced communities across the county to play and benefit from soccer. The initiative aims to increase access to the game and improve the health and well-being of at least 36,000 children by 2030.
“Through soccer, children can experience the benefits of teamwork, the discipline of being an athlete and the joy of competition,” said Griffin. “I am proud to partner with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Miami-Dade County and the Miami Children’s Trust to help bring this sport to thousands of children across our community.”
In addition to Griffin’s donation, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County, a longtime partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, has committed to supporting the launch of the Foundation’s Just Ball League on some newly installed mini-pitches and sustaining Soccer for Success in Miami-Dade County. These commitments put the Foundation more than halfway to its campaign goals.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Just Ball League, created with adidas and launched in New York City and Los Angeles in fall 2022, uses mini-pitches and other community hubs to create opportunities for league play at the neighborhood level while removing barriers, such as transportation and cost, that often prohibit children in underserved communities from playing the game. Soccer for Success, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s after-school program, has been found to improve health outcomes and social and emotional well-being. In fact, 88% of participants work better on a team, 86% stay away from anti-social behavior, and 83% have improved health outcomes.
“The Children’s Trust has long seen the value of utilizing sports as an opportunity to keep kids safe and increase their physical and social emotional wellness and has been a proud funder of Soccer for Success since 2017,” said James R. Haj, president & CEO of The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County. “The expansion of neighborhood league play through Just Ball, and the generous donation by Ken Griffin to install these new mini-pitches will provide increased low or no-cost opportunities for our community’s children and youth to explore and benefit from soccer.”
“Soccer is a perfect vehicle to deliver positive health and youth development outcomes that improve lives and strengthen communities. I couldn’t be more excited that this initiative will help drive the change that really matters to families across Miami-Dade County,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, president and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
The announcement was made at Villas Del Lago, the home of a future mini-pitch and part of the Ten North Group’s real estate holdings (formerly the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation). Community surveys and engagement indicated that families, which make up a large portion of the community, wanted access to soccer.
“Part of building a more equitable Miami-Dade means increasing access to community services—and that includes access to sports and outdoor recreation,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “Thanks to Ken Griffin’s historic investment, we’re creating more safe places for our children to play, as well as the robust soccer programming that will help them develop healthy habits for life.”
In addition to the County and The Children’s Trust, the Foundation will work with other installation partners, including city governments and community members, to determine the best locations for the 50 mini-pitches—the first of which will be installed this summer throughout Miami-Dade County.
Similar initiatives that create safe places to play and expand programming have also launched in Chicago, New York City, Newark, N.J., Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, D.C. – and the wide-ranging benefits have been borne out by recent community surveys. Ninety-nine percent of those living in communities with mini-pitches say that people in their community are more active after the installation of a mini-pitch, 98% say that their community feels safer after installation of a mini-pitch, and 91% say that their mini-pitch serves as a community hub.