When the Black players of Major League Soccer walked out onto that field for the start of the MLS is Back tournament in June 2020, everyone knew that a seismic shift was occurring. Through their actions and words, they showed the world that they were banding together to bring systemic change by calling for more opportunities for Black players, coaches, referees, and executives to become involved in the league.
Forming the Black Players for Change, they organized to bring more to the table, seeking to improve the access of Black children to the game. That was not only through programs that allowed for Black youth to attend matches where they could see their heroes play, but also by providing more places for them to safely play the game. They worked quickly on the latter part, and they decided to partner with a likeminded organization that had similar goal.
The Black Women’s Player Collective, which also was founded in 2020, joined up with the Black Players for Change and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to create a Mini-Pitch Initiative that called for installing 12 mini pitches by the end of 2021. The purpose: provide greater access to soccer for Black children in communities nationwide, because everyone deserves a safe place to play.
We are excited to announce our collaboration to increase access to soccer for children of color & create 12 new mini-pitches w/ @BPCMLS @adidassoccer @MuscoLighting @ussoccerfndn! #EveryoneGame#TogetherThereWillBeChange#Adidasfootballcollective pic.twitter.com/bR2fLzXVg3— Black Women’s Player Collective (@BWP_Collective) January 12, 2021
The selected cities and neighborhoods were linked with players from both the BPC and the BWPC. They were neighborhoods where players grew up learning the game, where they went to college, or where they otherwise had a connection. Through there, they arrived at 14 cities, furthering their goal:
- San Diego, CA
- Sacramento, CA
- New York City, NY
- Fresno, CA
- Houston, TX
- Woodbridge, VA
- Durham, NC
- Alexandria, VA
- Kissimmee, FL
- Indianapolis, IN
- Louisville, KY
- Hawthorne, CA
- Rex, GA
- Newark, NJ
That was an incredible goal for the group in their first few months. A few months later, 18 mini-pitches had been completed in those 14 cities. So, the groups decided to build upon their success, committing to 10 more mini-pitches by the close of 2023. Those are to be installed in Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, and Portland, Oregon.
10 more mini-pitches by the end of 2023. The new mini-pitches will be installed in the Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, and Portland, OR markets. With the successes they had in building the first set of mini-pitches, they wanted to continue to create more opportunities for children of color to learn the game.
The communities were selected by members of BPC and BWPC as areas of significance for the organizations to create more opportunities for children of color—specifically Black children—to learn and play the game.
“BPC is committed to tackling the racial injustices that have limited Black people from having an equitable stake in the game of soccer and society,” Justin Morrow, co-founder and executive director of BPC, said on the announcement of the Mini-Pitch Initiative. Speaking of the partnership with the BWPC, Morrow said, “our collective voice and support will go a lot further in making strides toward a more just society and equitable representation at all levels of the sport.”
In a nation that needs more places for children to play the game, the Black Players for Change and the Black Women’s Player Collective stepped up and made it happen. Thousands of children of color will have a safe space to learn and play the game of soccer, which will only help grow the opportunities for some of those kids to one day play on our USMNT or USWNT.
"The joining of BWPC & BPC is not only a monumental moment in Black Soccer history, but #USSoccer history. Creating paths to build equity in our game for those who have until just recently been w/o access, required a commitment & dedication to a long-term vision @QuincyAmarikwa pic.twitter.com/CzeX4hWrVW— Black Players For Change (@BPCMLS) January 12, 2021
For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing stories throughout the month to highlight some of the biggest moments in Black American and world soccer history.