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Fast Company: ‘26x26’ Will Boost Soccer, Kids, Communities

Soccer fans have been cheering LISC's $30 million collaboration with Lionsraw and American Outlaws to fuel soccer facilities and youth programming in underserved communities with 26x26. But the effort to invest in 26 fields by the 2026 World Cup is about much more than scoring goals; the program is set to empower 1 million kids and improve the health of their communities as well. Fast Company takes an in-depth look.

The excerpt below is from:
Inside the $30 million plan to make American soccer great again
By John Converse Townsend, Fast Company

Last October, almost a year to this day, the United States men’s national soccer team, then ranked 28th, was outplayed and ultimately defeated by a Trinidad and Tobago outfit ranked 99th in the world. The 2-1 loss, coupled with final results from two other qualifying games, eliminated the USMNT from World Cup contention for the first time since 1986.

In the wake of the embarrassment, the entire U.S. soccer system has been given a thorough autopsy by analysts, journalists, fans, and even national team players themselves. The USMNT’s failure to qualify has been attributed to a host of issues, from naive tactics to poor player development that led to a lost generation of young sporting talent.

Over the past decade in the United States, overall youth participation in sports has declined–soccer has been the sport hardest hit. The fact is, fewer kids play soccer in America since its peak a decade ago, even when you include casual fans and kids who touch a soccer ball once a year. And the people who still do play are self-selecting, indicating another, more deeply rooted issue: Well-off kids have a much easier time making it in the soccer world.

“The pride...and the ability to play home games, which a lot of us take for granted–it’s hard to place a monetary value on that, but it’s huge.”
— Maurice A. Jones, LISC CEO & president

A new project launched this summer, known as 26×26, is trying to tackle the entrenched issue of accessibility, while also building up a new culture of sports in the country. Led by global charity Lionsrawand the New York-based nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), 26×26 is a $30 million initiative that will help empower a million kids across North America by building 26 community soccer fields by 2026, when the United States will cohost the World Cup with Canada and Mexico.

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