Supporting the Growth of Youth Soccer in Miami-Dade County
For over a decade, the U.S. Soccer Foundation has expanded its efforts to improve the health of young Americans through soccer. Working in more than 180 underserved communities across the country, the Foundation has enabled over 700,000 children to participate in after-school soccer programs nationally.
But in many areas, a challenge remains: the lack of suitable soccer pitches in locations that are accessible to students. To meet that challenge, Griffin Catalyst—whose founder Ken Griffin used to play midfield, coached the game for decades, and describes himself as a “big-time soccer fan”—has stepped in. Having previously supported the creation of 50 mini-pitches around the City of Chicago, Griffin Catalyst is funding another 50 mini-pitches across Miami-Dade County, with the goal of transforming access to the game in advance of Miami serving as host of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
WHO WE’RE SUPPORTING
Developed in partnership with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, The Children’s Trust, and local nonprofit host sites, the Miami-Dade Soccer Initiative will construct 50 mini-pitches. Smaller than the standard 150-foot by 300-foot soccer pitch, mini-pitches are designed to fit in denser urban and suburban sites yet still provide the necessary fittings for challenging and rewarding soccer games, repurposing underused space for play.
Griffin Catalyst’s partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation will also support thousands of kids every year in after-school soccer games, training, and leagues, including Miami-Dade’s Just Ball League.
WHY IT MATTERS
After-school soccer programs have demonstrated value for all students, not only in promoting physical health and stamina but also in teaching the values of sportsmanship, initiative, and cooperation toward a common goal. “Soccer is a game every young girl and boy can pick up,” Ken Griffin has observed. “I can see it in my colleagues who played in team sports, how that just helps them advance in their career. They understand how to collaborate and how to get things done.”
For students from communities who historically have not had access to local pitches, participating in soccer has been challenging. The Miami-Dade Soccer Initiative represents an opportunity to play, learn, and grow close to home. In the words of one such player, Cariana Pou, a former Florida high school student who is now a rising freshman with a soccer scholarship at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: “Having the field so far away, we did have to travel. So it’s really awesome that you guys are opening up this new field that’s closer and giving everyone the opportunity to do what I did, but just easier and more affordable…. I recommend [soccer] for everyone. It’s an amazing sport.”
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
The introduction of the 50 new mini-pitches in Miami-Dade County—whose population of 2.6 million makes it the largest metropolitan region in Florida and the seventh-largest in the United States—is expected to create new opportunities and engage more than 30,000 young people with the game of soccer.
In a recent evaluation of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s program by the national nonprofit American Institutes for Research, 88% of participants were found to work better on a team, 86% to stay away from trouble-making behavior, and 72% try harder in school. Eighty-three percent of children at greater risk for health issues maintained or improved their health. The U.S. Department of Justice, meanwhile, cited the program’s distinctive ability to engage and retain youth who might not participate in a traditional mentoring relationship.
Beyond the direct value to the participants, the program helps the city and country as a whole. By leveraging the efforts of local partners and identifying underused lots, the new mini-pitches contribute to the vitality of their communities, offering underserved neighborhoods a new and central location for recreational activities, team-building, and community focus.