U.S. Soccer Foundation & Coalition of YMCAs Team Up to Positively Improve the Health and Well-Being of 1 Million Youths by 2026

The U.S. Soccer Foundation and 16 YMCAs across the USA, including those in the 11 U.S. World Cup Host Cities, announced a joint campaign, The Road to 2026: Making an Impact in Local Communities, to increase access to soccer and its health and wellness benefits to at least 1 million youth in advance of the FIFA World Cup 2026™ in North America.

“This joint campaign provides an opportunity to drive the change that really matters in communities—improved health and well-being of young people,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “While the world’s largest soccer event is coming back to the U.S., what is most important is that we can use that excitement and momentum around soccer to make a transformational impact on youth and communities that will last for generations to come.”

“At the Y, we are committed to providing safe places for youth in our communities to play and develop healthy bodies, minds, and spirits,” said Loria Yeadon, President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Seattle. “The thrill of the 2026 FIFA World Cup is a perfect opportunity to get our youth moving and excited about soccer. On behalf of the 16 participating Ys, we are thrilled to team up with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to realize our shared mission to improve health outcomes for all youth, especially those in underserved communities who need us most. Activating our collaboration on Healthy Kids Day, Saturday, April 29th, the Y’s annual national day of celebration, is the perfect opportunity to improve the health and well-being of youth and families.”

The 16 participating Ys include:

  • Greater Austin YMCA
  • Greater Philadelphia YMCA
  • Hockomock Area YMCA
  • YMCA of Greater Boston
  • YMCA of Greater Cincinnati
  • YMCA of Greater Houston
  • YMCA of Greater Kansas City
  • YMCA of Greater New York
  • YMCA of Greater Seattle
  • YMCA of Metro Atlanta
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles
  • YMCA of the North
  • YMCA of San Francisco
  • YMCA of San Diego
  • YMCA of Silicon Valley

The U.S. Soccer Foundation and participating Ys will join forces to provide access to soccer programming to help develop the physical, social, and emotional well-being of our youth and expand safe places for them to play soccer across the country. The collaboration will include Ys offering the Foundation’s Soccer for Success after-school program and Just Ball League, where appropriate, as well as the installation of mini-pitches. The Foundation and Ys will also work together to train coaches in high-quality mentorship and youth development principles to foster positive, inclusive, and safe experiences for youth.

To launch the partnership, and in honor of Healthy Kids Day, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the Ys are offering the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Coach-Mentor Training on April 28 and 30 to all branches in the partnership and celebrating the opening of a mini-pitch at the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s Auburn branch on April 29th. Both the April 28th and April 30th training will be offered virtually so that other staff, volunteers, and members of partner Ys across the country can also take part. Please contact your local Y to register for this opportunity.

The Foundation’s Coach-Mentor Training helps coaches build their skills to serve as mentors and provide more positive youth sports experiences. Coach-Mentor Training also helps coaches learn how to work effectively with youth in and from underserved communities and create a positive team culture that reflects the diversity of the youth they serve. This is especially critical when coaches work with young people of varying racial, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds and ensuring the health and safety of youth sports participants.

Soccer for Success has been found to improve health outcomes and social and emotional well-being. Data show that 88% of participants work better on a team, 86% stay away from anti-social behavior, and 83% have improved health outcomes. 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.

Community surveys show that mini-pitches also offer a wide array of community benefits in addition to increased playing spaces. 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 the installation of a mini-pitch, and 91% say that their mini-pitch serves as a community hub.