MLS and its official education partner, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), announced on Thursday that they have extended their partnership for three years, continuing upon their commitment to help MLS players and staff earn their college degrees.
MLS and SNHU began working together in 2015 and through the partnership, all MLS players and staff are able to pursue a degree online with SNHU, all while managing grueling travel and training schedules. The partnership also emphasizes community-based initiatives aimed at supporting youth programs, local charities, and the military in major cities.
“Often times, professional players have to choose between going to college and going into the pros,” said Steve Thiel, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Southern New Hampshire University. “But thanks to this partnership, MLS players no longer have to postpone one dream to achieve the other. We’re excited to continue our partnership with MLS to help make a difference in communities across North America.”
With the renewal, SNHU and MLS will continue working across MLS communities to expand access to education for underserved populations.
"MLS' innovative partnership with Southern New Hampshire University has been a huge success and has a positive impact on the entire organization," said Jennifer Cramer, Vice President, Partnership Marketing, MLS. “We are excited to extend this true win-win partnership which will continue to provide opportunities for our players, coaches and staff to earn a degree while juggling their busy schedules."
Since the partnership began, more than 180 MLS players, retired players and staff have enrolled in degree programs with SNHU, and four degrees have been awarded. Tesho Akindele, FC Dallas forward and member of the Canadian national team, was the first player to graduate from SNHU through the partnership and is now working toward his master’s degree.
“A lot of us had to put our education on hold to pursue our dreams in soccer. This partnership allows us to keep working towards our degree while still playing the game we love,” said Akindele.
In addition to helping MLS players and staff reach their educational goals, SNHU and the league have also worked together to support local communities and charitable orgranizations over the past few years. Together, they’ve built 26 safe places to learn and play in MLS communities, donated nearly $300,000 to the United Service Organizations (USO), awarded more than 20 SNHU scholarships, and contributed $100K to U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success Program.
"It was a big priority for my mom and my dad that I went to school and get a college education like they did. And being of Haitian descent, for most parents education is key on the island: Educate yourself and making sure you continue to learn is important," Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore said in an interview with the AP. "So that's a promise that I made to my mom when I turned pro, that I'd someday still get a degree."