Can’t wait for the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be played in Miami and throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada? Well, thanks to the recently announced Miami-Dade Soccer Initiative, your kids won’t have to wait much longer to start playing soccer, even if you don’t have any soccer pitches near your neighborhood right now.
At a special news conference held in April, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, The Children’s Trust, Citadel founder/CEO and philanthropist Kenneth C. Griffin, and others announced the launch of the initiative that will include the creation of 50 new soccer mini-pitches and accompanying programming to create leagues and other soccer related programs. The initiative is focused on increasing access to the game and improving the health and well-being of at least 36,000 children by 2030.
The new soccer pitches will be built mostly in areas that don’t have current facilities for underserved youth to play soccer. The Trust and its partner US Soccer Foundation will provide most of the programming, all of which will be free of charge, and also help identify where the soccer pitches will be built to make sure they are located near youth and families who are most in need of them. The mini-soccer pitches or fields will host US Soccer’s Just Ball League which has already been successful in other major cities around the country.
“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 & C.E.O. of The Children’s Trust. “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.”
Griffin is donating $5 million to fund the development of 50 new mini-pitches in Miami-Dade County by 2026, with US Soccer and The Trust providing most of the programming support.
“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.”
The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Just Ball League, created with Adidas and launched in New York City and Los Angeles in the fall of 2022, uses mini-pitches and other community hubs to develop 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 with 88% of participants working better on a team, 86% staying away from anti-social behavior, and 83% having improved health outcomes. The Trust already partners with U.S. Soccer to bring Soccer for Success to Miami-Dade County.
“We’re thrilled to work with Ken Griffin and The Children’s Trust to provide thousands of children with safe places to play and opportunities to improve their health and well-being,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & C.E.O. of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “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 matters to families across Miami-Dade County.”
The announcement that launched Miami-Dade Soccer Initiatives 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 comprise a large portion of the community, wanted access to soccer.
“Part of building a more equitable Miami-Dade means increasing access to community services – including 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.
Before providing leadership funding for the Miami-Dade County Soccer Initiative, Griffin was integral to the launch of the Chicago Soccer Initiative, which expanded access to the game for more than 10,000 Chicago children. In 2017, he funded the development of 50 mini-pitches at parks across Chicago. A contribution from the Hauptman family and Chicago Fire Soccer Club simultaneously allowed the U.S. Soccer Foundation to expand its Soccer for Success after-school program and the Chicago Fire’s P.L.A.Y.S. program across the city.
Similar initiatives that create safe places to play and expand programming have also launched in New York City, Newark, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington, D.C. – and recent community surveys have borne out the wide-ranging benefits. Ninety-nine percent of those living in communities with mini-pitches say that people in their community are more active after installing a mini-pitch, 98% say that their community feels safer after installing a mini-pitch, and 91% say that their mini-pitch serves as a community hub.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation is working with other partners to join this initiative and raise the $10 million to have the desired community impact in the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup 2026. Miami is one of 11 Host Cities in the U.S.