PepsiCo, Inc. has announced that it has added 16 new organizations to this year’s “Team of Champions,” a national purpose platform that improves access to soccer in underserved communities, including Black and Hispanic youth, across the U.S. The $1 million commitment over three years makes actionable investments on and off the field, including helping the teams with apparel and equipment costs, field access, mentoring, coaching and education, and fan experiences. In its second year, in addition to expanding its reach to more communities, “Team of Champions” will focus on recruiting more young women athletes to the program.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, who continues to serve as “Team Captain”, will help raise the visibility of this year’s lineup and the impact these organizations have in local communities across the country. “Last year, PepsiCo and I worked together to establish the ‘Team of Champions’ program and, together, have brought 9,000 athletes and coaches onto the field,” said Chicharito. “In addition to the physical benefits of playing soccer, bringing this beautiful game into these communities teaches youth about teamwork, problem-solving, and accountability. Participation in sports overall enhances resilience and has been proven to boost self-esteem. I’m excited to continue to deliver on our mission to remove barriers to the game in underserved communities.”
New to this year’s “Team of Champions” program is “Access for Champions,” an opportunity for participating players to connect with UEFA ambassadors. Through these inspirational events, participants will have the chance to engage with athletes and leaders, from both PepsiCo and in the soccer industry, to discuss various topics ranging from creating a growth mindset to exploring soccer as an industry. Additionally, for the second consecutive year PepsiCo is partnering with ACCESS U, a non-profit dedicated to mentoring players and their families throughout the college recruiting process, to help guide students who are pursuing athletic scholarships.
The “Team of Champions” is an important initiative part of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey’s community pillar, which in 2020 saw the company announce commitments of more than $570 million over five years to increase representation within its workforce, and uplift Black and Hispanic businesses and communities in the U.S. to address issues of inequality and create opportunity.
“The ‘Team of Champions’ is symbolic of PepsiCo’s commitment to drive long-term change and address systemic barriers in these underserved communities,” said Antonio Escalona, SVP & GM, Hispanic Business Unit, PepsiCo Foods North America. “Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and the commitment made by our brands Lay’s, Pepsi and Gatorade through this program has had a measurable impact on Hispanic-owned and Black-owned soccer clubs, programs and businesses in the United States.”
This year’s “Team of Champions” lineup is comprised of 16 local organizations in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C.
“Last year, we leveraged our largest global platform – UEFA Champions League – as a force for good, introducing the ‘Team of Champions’ and breaking down barriers to the game in cities across the country,” said Esperanza Teasdale, VP & GM, Hispanic Business Unit, PepsiCo Beverages North America. “We saw an opportunity to help level the playing field, and this year, we’re focused on expanding our support in more local communities – bolstering efforts to equalize access for underserved youth, including a focus on increasing the recruitment of young women athletes who have fewer opportunities to play sports than young male athletes.”
Building on the success of the 2021 program, PepsiCo has been able to:
- Benefit more than 9,000 athletes and coaches in the first year alone, including the provision of educational opportunities to refine and optimize their leadership skills.
- Increase from 11 organizations in 2021 to 16 organizations in this second year.
- Provide the opportunity for various teams to participate in competitive tournaments. For example, The Spartan Wolves (Inglewood, CA) sent all seven teams to the California State Cup, a regional tournament that gives players higher visibility to college scouts; and Future Soccer Club (Lanham, MD) sent four teams to the D.C. Cup, a prestigious East Coast College Showcase.
- Provide more than 540 athletes with new gear and safety equipment.
- Offer student-athlete mentorship opportunities with highly regarded athletes, team executives and soccer business leaders.
- Unlock access to outdoor and indoor local facilities and provide resources for field maintenance, including installing lighting.
In the lead up to the 2021-2022 UEFA Champions League final, PepsiCo will amplify stories from the 16 organizations, distributed across broadcast, social and digital platforms, to provide more visibility on the impact of each dollar donated.
The PepsiCo “Team of Champions” 2022 receiving funding this year includes:
- Club Soccer Centro (Houston, TX): Club Soccer Centro is one of the largest Hispanic soccer organizations in Houston, TX. Founded in 2002, they have supported over 35,000 players in the local community by keeping them busy on a field and off the streets. Currently, they work with more than 500 kids aged 4-18 in different soccer related programs.
- Cultures United FC (Seattle, WA): Cultures United FC offers underprivileged young adults from diverse backgrounds a pathway to athletic advancement while simultaneously empowering them to give back to their community via free camps and clinics for youth.
- FCI Soccer Academy (Washington, D.C.): FCI Soccer Academy is a non-profit organization with the purpose of getting the youth in Prince George’s County active and to form a community of parents and children who are able to spend time together.
- Football For Her (Los Angeles, CA): Football For Her provides a safe and inclusive space for girls to play football (some may know it as “soccer”), offering mentorship and professional resources that may not otherwise be available.
- JaHbat FC Premier (Chicago, IL): A growing club, providing the opportunity to train and compete at the highest level for youth soccer, ages 6-19 years old. JaHbat currently has over 20 teams and more than 300 players. JaHbat is an acronym which represents the cultural backgrounds of each of the club’s first players; Jamaica, Americas, Haiti, Belize, Asia/Africa, and Trinidad.
- Kalonji Soccer Academy (Atlanta, GA): Kalonji Soccer Academy is all about the kids, and the program run by Atlanta Youth Soccer Foundation (AYSF), a not-for-profit 501c3 that offers programs for children and adults. AYSF provides a safe, supportive, and caring environment where all children regardless of their socio-economic background can learn, play, and evolve their soccer skills.
- Little Haiti (Miami, FL): Little Haiti FC (LHFC) is the only free, not-for-profit start-up youth soccer club in Florida. LHFC serves 175 children from a diverse population of underserved families from the central Miami neighborhood of Little Haiti and surrounding communities. In the past seven years 100% of the children in the program graduated high school and 80% went on to higher education.
- PureGame (Los Angeles, CA): PureGame creates programming for children that integrates a character education curriculum, leadership coaching, and sport. PureGame introduces life skills, builds character and helps children.
- RYSA Wimauma Warriors (Tampa Bay, FL): An organization located in the city of Wimauma that has been working and supporting the local Hispanic community, made up mainly of migrant workers who have emigrated from Latin American countries. This program improves the quality of life in the local community that shares a common love of soccer.
- Sol of the Cities (Minneapolis, MN): In a world of pay to play athletics, where many communities are left out, Sol of the Cities serve-to-play futsal league was created. Sol of the Cities has developed a model that gives kids the opportunity to play competitive futsal in a positive environment; that promotes giving back to the community.
- South Bronx United (New York, NY): South Bronx United is a 501c3 non-profit, youth development organization that combines soccer with academic enrichment, college prep, mentoring, and family services to engage immigrant and first-generation youth and support the broader South Bronx community.
- Texas Soccer Alliance (Dallas, TX): Texas Soccer Alliance is a soccer club/academy serving the North Fort Worth, Keller, Saginaw and surrounding areas. Their main focus is to provide full developmental support to all players boys and girls, regardless of skill level in an effort to prepare them for competition at any and every level.
- The 18th Ward (New Orleans, LA): The 18th Ward was created to increase youth access to sports by eliminating barriers to participation. They provide high-quality programs and trained coaches to make sure kids have fun and learn the foundational skills to feel successful in sports.
- Union Jerez (Denver, CO): Union Jerez is a youth academy built on a foundation to help kids. We want to give an opportunity to kids to enjoy playing soccer and help them pursue a collegiate career to better their future.
- United Philly Soccer (Philadelphia, PA): United Philly’s mission is to create an all-inclusive pathway for players residing in Philadelphia to participate in a high quality and competitive soccer program up through their high school years.
- Women in Soccer (New York, NY): Women in Soccer (WIS) is a growing community of women and allies united by the inclusive spirit of soccer coming together in one digital hub. The WIS network is on a mission to connect and support all women and marginalized individuals who love the beautiful game, with a specific focus on making the soccer industry a more equitable place to work.