ATLANTA—When the final whistle has blown at the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, the league and its partners will leave behind an enduring legacy in Atlanta, thanks to the construction of 10 brand new soccer “mini-pitches” throughout the city.
This year’s MLS All-Star Community Day celebrated the opening of one of these play spaces for kids at Atlanta’s Anderson Park, part of Target’s $14 million commitment to support greater access to the sport of soccer in the U.S.
“These kinds of projects define Major League Soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber, following the event. “We have underserved communities that are not as connected to the game as they need to be, and we’re going to work on our own and with groups like Target and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to try to achieve that.”
Representatives from MLS, Target, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and the City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation were on hand Monday afternoon to enjoy the day with dozens of neighborhood kids who were treated to All-Star-themed games and activities.
Target plans to spend $6 million to build 100 of the mini-pitches nationwide by 2020, with openings in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa to come next. Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, expressed his desire to have 1,000 of the fields open and ready by 2026 when the United States, Canada, and Mexico host the World Cup.
“I think it’s a fantastic thing,” Atlanta United captain Parkhurst told MLSsoccer.com. “We all grew up playing in our communities, not really at places like this, but anywhere in the neighborhood with neighborhood kids in and around the community.”
Parkhurst added: “We want to make sure all kids have that opportunity to get out there in front of a soccer goal with a soccer ball and be able to play with friends and teammates because that’s where we get good. It’s not just practice, it’s going out there in all odd hours of the day, just being able to play free. That’s why these things are important.”