Atlanta United and Soccer in the Streets celebrated the first anniversary of the launch of the Atlanta United Foundation (AUF) and its flagship community project, Station Soccer on Friday. Launched on October 27, 2016, StationSoccer is the first soccer field in the world to be built inside the perimeter of a major urban transit station. AUF strives to make the sport of soccer accessible and inclusive for individuals across the state of Georgia through various grant programs, equipment donations and pitch builds. It is an affiliate fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Soccer in the Streets is a local social impact soccer organization servicing underserved youth through sports-based training, character development, and employability programs.
“We are very proud of the work the Atlanta United Foundation has achieved in our inaugural year,” said Atlanta United president Darren Eales. “Community service and engagement is a pillar of our club, and with the programs we have initiated this year we have set a strong foundation on which to build upon in year two and beyond. Station Soccer is a groundbreaking and award-winning project that represents a unique opportunity to provide a practical pathway to the game of soccer for youth across metro Atlanta. We look forward to building on this groundbreaking project and our successful partnership with Soccer in the Streets.”
AUF has pledged 500K in grants this year alone to community organizations geared to develop grassroots soccer and provide life skills programs to Atlanta’s underserved urban communities. Grants include over 300K to deliver soccer programming and character education to 20 Atlanta area elementary schools and 11 middle schools as well as to operate a Westside Soccer League serving more than 200 students. AUF focuses on projects that do more than providing fleeting exposure to soccer, seeking to invest in innovations that result in systemic, long-term access to participation.
Station Soccer, funded through an AUF grant and programmed by the social impact soccer organization Soccer in the Streets, was concurrently launched with AUF one year ago. During its first 12 months, the project has reached remarkable milestones such as: servicing 1,000+ underserved children, completing 126 hours of youth session, running the first local youth homeless soccer league with 3,300+ adult participants, and hosting 23 special events. For its accomplishments, Station Soccer has earned recognition at the international, national and local level, including the Global Award for Innovation and Technology 2017 (Beyond Sport), the Urban Soccer Symposium Innovation Award 2017 (U.S. Soccer Foundation), the Community Design Award 2017 (Atlanta Urban Design Commission), the Activation of a Public Space Award of Excellence (Atlanta Urban Design Commission), the Social Innovation Award (Urban Land Institute), and named as one of Atlanta’s Transit Wins in 2016.
“Station Soccer is providing access to the game to kids that otherwise would not have been exposed to the beautiful game, thus fostering a new generation of soccer fans across metro Atlanta,” said Soccer in the Streets Executive Director Phil Hill. “Our organization pursues making soccer accessible and inclusive, and to do so eliminating transportation barriers is key. The partnership between Soccer in the Streets and the Atlanta United Foundation demonstrates the club’s commitment to providing access to soccer to our city’s youth, especially in areas that have historically been marginalized; the social impact of Station Soccer by uniting demographics that would not traditionally meet, but are coming together thanks to soccer, is undeniable.”
Part of Station Soccer programming includes soccer-driven leadership training, promoting employability among young people and creating a sustainable, competitive format through adult leagues. The project seeks to include community members across metro Atlanta by using downtown as a converging point for a new urban soccer culture. Using innovative ideas focused on inclusiveness and collaboration, the Station Soccer project aims to embrace and encourage the global nature of the game.