SBJ/June 23-29, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Ed Foster-Simeon, U.S. Soccer Foundation

After coaching his eldest son’s soccer team, Ed Foster-Simeon found himself getting more and more involved in the game. The longtime USA Today editor wound up volunteering as the president of a club team and later for the state association. In 2008, the U.S. Soccer Foundation tapped him to become its president. He has worked since then to create more opportunities for urban and underserved communities to play the game. The organization plans to make the most of this summer’s World Cup to raise awareness for its programs and increase donations.


When you’re talking about lower-income communities, where the social infrastructure isn’t there to provide organized sports, cost barriers and safety issues can be a huge issue. If you don’t create safe places that parents know there’s programming for those children, it’s difficult for them to envision having those opportunities.


Photo by: TIFFIN WARNOCK / STAFF
Why he joined the foundation:
I saw what the game does for children. I saw the confidence it gave my own [four] children: the ability to be leaders, to learn teamwork and collaboration, persistence in the face of obstacles. The game can make a real difference in communities and people’s lives.

How World Cup interest affects  fundraising: [We] leverage it to continue our work at the grassroots level and particularly to create opportunities to reach underserved communities. We’re doing viewing parties. [Former U.S national team captain] Claudio Reyna and I sat on a panel at Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in New York. We’re doing a program with Johnson & Johnson, a donate-a-photo campaign, in which people donate a photo to Johnson & Johnson, and it results in a donation to the foundation.

About the headway the foundation has made with soccer in urban areas: When I started, we didn’t have a specific program trying to deliver the game in urban communities. We’ve gone from zero to 19,000 kids in 25 cities who are engaged in ongoing [soccer-participation] programs.

How soccer coverage has changed since his time as deputy managing editor at USA Today (1999 to 2008): USA Today was out in front in soccer coverage, and it’s grown over time, but if you look at front pages on Tuesday morning after the U.S. victory [over Ghana last week], the idea 25 years ago that soccer would be the dominant art or dominant headline, people would have laughed. The media covers what’s happening, and what has been happening is the game is growing incredibly in popularity. You can’t ignore it. You have to cover it.
 
— Tripp Mickle

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