Joined by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and local and national partners, the committee laid out plans to raise funding for and create 30 new mini-pitches across the greater Houston area and dramatically increase participation in high-quality soccer programs by 2026.
To do this, the committee is partnering with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, a national non-profit organisation with a mission to provide underserved communities access to innovative play spaces and evidence-based soccer programs that instil hope, foster well-being, and help youth achieve their fullest potential.
“As part of our 2026 FIFA World Cup Bid, we are focused on creating a legacy. We want to make a lasting impact long after the matches are over,” said Chris Canetti, President, Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee.
“As part of that legacy, we are motivated to help grow the game while positively impacting the lives of local youth. This collaboration with our community and the U.S. Soccer Foundation is a strong example of these things. We look forward to delivering an impact well into the future.”
Mayor Turner, added: “Soccer is a dynamic, fast-paced sport with a global audience, and it makes sense to increase access for young people in the nation’s fourth-largest and most diverse city.
“The program will provide young people in underserved communities with innovative spaces to play, boost their confidence and promote a healthy lifestyle. It also aligns with my Complete Communities initiative to ensure that all Houstonians have equal access to quality services and amenities. It is a win-win for everyone,”
In addition to the creation of 30 mini-pitches, the $6m campaign aims to fund the expansion of the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program to serve at least 15,000 local youth and train 1,000 adults as coach-mentors to run the program.
Soccer for Success has been recognised nationally for its ability to improve the health and social outcomes of its participants. Houston Parks & Recreation has been running the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program since its inception.
“We’re excited to continue to expand our work in the Houston area to make soccer more equitable and accessible to all,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
“Through the creation of mini-pitches and the expansion of free soccer programs, more children from underserved communities can benefit from all our game has to offer and connect with trained and caring coach-mentors who can change the trajectory of their lives.”
More than $1.5m has already been raised toward this campaign thanks to funding pledged by new Houston Dynamo FC owner Ted Segal, along with Houston Dynamo minority FC owner Ben Guill and former Dynamo and Dash minority owner Jake Silverstein.
Guill and Silverstein are working with former United States and Houston Dynamo star and Houston 2026 board member DaMarcus Beasley and the U.S. Soccer Foundation on the creation of 15 mini-pitches by 2024, six of which have already been installed across the region. In August, Segal pledged $100,000 to the Grow the Game initiative and officially joined the Bid Committee.